Pension saving is at its lowest level for 10 years according to recently published Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) analysis by the Family Resources Survey (FRS), a key source for pension information. The analysis came from interviews with around 25,000 private households across the UK in 2009 and 2010.

Only 38% of working-age people, 11.6 million out of 30.4 million people are saving into a private pension. In reporting the analysis, the DWP highlighted that this shows exactly why automatic enrolment into pension schemes being introduced from October 2012, is so critical.

The figures show a steady decline in pension saving between 1999/2000 and 2009/10, with the decrease being most dramatic among men and the under 40s. While the overall number of people saving into a private pension fell from 46% in 1999/00 to 38% in 2009/10, pension saving among men fell from 52% to 39%. And among people aged between 20 and 39 years old pension provision fell from 43% to 31%.

The analysis also reveals a map of pension provision across the UK in 2009/10, with higher pension provision in the South East (43%), Scotland (42%), the South West (41%) and the East (41%), and lowest pension participation in Northern Ireland (33%), London (34%) and the West Midlands (34%).

Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb, said: “These are alarming figures and they underscore exactly why our pension reforms will be so vital. With fewer people saving into a pension, lower annuity rates and an average of 23 years in retirement, many people could face a poorer future in their later lives.

“We simply must put a stop to this trend and get people saving. Automatic enrolment, beginning for the largest employers later this year, will get millions of people saving, many for the first time.”

Automatic enrolment in a nutshell

  • Beginning in autumn 2012, many more people will have access to a pension at work, to help them save for their later years.
  • Employers will have to enrol all eligible employees into a pension and make minimum contributions into the scheme.
  • If you are eligible, your employer will enrol you automatically into a pension.
  • You will be able to opt out if you want to but will therefore miss out on an employer contribution of around £600 a year once minimum contributions are established – 3% of average earnings of £26,200 for full-time workers (ONS 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings).