'People might work for only a third of their life. The sums don't add up'

December 2, 2005

Hugh Pemberton, lecturer in modern British history, believes academics are lucky with their pensions

As the Government wrestles with Britain's pensions problem, one academic expert is happy to report that academia at least enjoys a pretty good superannuation deal.

Hugh Pemberton, lecturer in modern British history at Bristol University and co-editor of Britain's Pensions Crisis: History and Policy , to be published in 2006, has taken a keen interest in the proposals made this week by the Turner Commission.

Dr Pemberton said the problem was that the current pension system was not designed to cater for increasing human longevity and retirements that commonly last 20 years or more. He said: "People now begin work later and, if anything, they've been retiring earlier. They might easily work for only a third of their life. The sums don't add up.

"We're pretty lucky (in academe). We have a well-financed pension scheme.

In much of the private sector, occupational pension schemes are collapsing."

Dr Pemberton, who worked as a consulting business analyst in the pensions industry until 1997, said that pension reform was politically difficult because it required people to fork out money now for a benefit they will receive in the distant future. And pension reform carried little political benefit for governments, which work to a far shorter time scale, he added.

"Upfront costs and long-term payoffs don't suit a political system normally focused not much beyond the next five years," he said. "This will be a long process that we'll have to negotiateas a society."

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