Retail, travel and hospitality workers ‘could struggle to afford to retire’

Workers in sectors including retail, travel and hospitality could face a lifetime of "playing catch-up" with their retirement savings, an insurer has warned.

Scottish Widows said many workers who are now taking a hit to their finances were already finding it difficult to save adequately for retirement before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

They could now struggle with ever being able to afford to retire.

Some are in sectors where businesses are feeling severe economic impacts from Covid-19, including the prospect of widespread job losses.

Scottish Widows' annual retirement report, looking at more than 5,000 adults across the UK, found that:

– More than a quarter (27%) of people working in travel and the arts have not yet started saving into a pension.

– Two-thirds (67%) of retail workers are worried that if they ever did retire, they would quickly run out of money.

– Nearly two-thirds (62%) of construction workers feel they are not preparing adequately for retirement.

– Less than a fifth (18%) of restaurant workers are optimistic about their retirement.

It is highly likely that these workers are now also facing new financial pressures that will make saving for the long term even more difficult, Scottish Widows said.

It said one reason workers have historically been pessimistic about retirement, even before Covid-19, is when employers only contribute the legal minimum amounts into their pension.

Pete Glancy, head of policy at Scottish Widows, said that, while around three in five people generally are estimated to be saving adequately for their retirement, "long-term prospects are still to a large degree defined by the industry in which people work".

"That's because, while auto-enrolment has transformed the retirement prospects of millions, minimum contributions are still far below what is needed to provide a good standard of living," he said.

"We recognise that the next 12 to 18 months is going to be about businesses getting back on their feet, but many individuals have taken a substantial hit to their finances and the fear is that the gap can't be closed, meaning they face a lifetime of work as they struggle to afford to retire."

Scottish Widows also said hard-working "multi-jobbers" risk being left behind.

For example, a quarter (24%) of people in travel and tourism and in the arts have more than one job. This rises to 27% of people who work in education, the report said.

In total there are around 6.8 million "multi-jobbers" in the UK, Scottish Widows said.

Its report warned they could miss out on pension contributions because their income is split across different employers, so they could fall short of the minimum earnings threshold for automatic enrolment for each of those jobs.

Mr Glancy added: "The pension system unfairly penalises those who are in low-paid work. Scrapping the minimum earnings threshold would allow millions of multi-jobbers to benefit from auto-enrolment like everyone else, and is long overdue."