Around eight in 10 eligible employees had a workplace pension in April last year despite the tough economy, data shows.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the workplace pension participation rate in the UK was 79% in April 2021, up slightly from 78% in 2020.
In 2012 – the year automatic enrolment into workplace pensions started – participation levels were at less than half (47%).
The growth was partly explained by increased public sector employment driven by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS said.
Since the rollout of automatic enrolment in October 2012, the difference in workplace pension participation between the public and private sectors has narrowed considerably, the ONS said.
Employees aged 16 to 21 years not eligible for Automatic Enrolment (AE) because of age restrictions were far less likely to have a workplace pension (20%).
Participation was highest for age group 40 to 49 years (86%) with similar levels for all AE eligible employees. pic.twitter.com/CXZZsF6opk
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) April 20, 2022
This was mainly driven by increased participation in the private sector, the report said.
The earnings “trigger” for automatic enrolment eligibility is £10,000.
“Only 20% of employees aged between 16 and 21 are in a pension scheme and the pension participation rate in the private sector was only 43% for those earning between £100 and £199 a week, compared to 88% in the public sector.
“This shouldn’t be a surprise given these groups are largely excluded from auto-enrolment.”
Emma Douglas, director of workplace savings and retirement at Aviva, said: “The rising cost of living is placing extreme pressure on household finances.
“The need to defend pension saving is stronger than ever. Today’s data gives confidence that savers understand this importance.”