UK’s Unfair Pension Policy | Why British Expats Deserve Their Fair Share

It leaves retirees vulnerable to inflation and the eroding buying power of their pensions. The rising cost of energy, food and other essentials, often higher in these countries than the UK, make the situation even grimmer.

The return of the state pension triple lock in April 2023, a government commitment to raise state pensions annually by the highest of three key measures, has relieved many retirees in the UK. However, the same cannot be said for an estimated half a million British pensioners living abroad, who, according to deVere Group analysis, will miss out on the benefits of this financial boost.

They Paid Their Faire Share: What They Get Is Not Fair

It is disheartening when those who have contributed to the UK’s economy through years of diligent work and tax payments are deprived of their due rights in retirement. “Outrageously, they will continue to have their pensions frozen in value at the date of retirement or emigration,” deVere Group CEO, Nigel Green, highlighted. “It seems completely unjust that someone living in the U.S. will receive an extra £1,000, yet someone just across the border in Canada, in the same situation, will not.”

It’s OK For Some: But Not For All

While pensioners living in the European Economic Area (EEA), the United States, the Philippines and Turkey will continue to receive annual increases to their state pensions under the triple lock scheme, most affected pensioners residing in Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and Canada, will not.

The economic imbalance generated by this policy has left thousands of Britons struggling with soaring living costs in their countries of residence.

A Growing Injustice

This policy, which holds pensions at the same rate as when the pensioners first became entitled or when they left the UK if already retired, is both unjust and unsustainable. It leaves retirees vulnerable to inflation and the eroding buying power of their pensions. The rising cost of energy, food and other essentials, often higher in these countries than the UK, make the situation even grimmer.

Morally Bankrupt

Campaigners, including the End Frozen Pensions group, have called on the UK government to scrap this policy, branding it as “morally bankrupt.” They argue that the UK’s pension policy unfairly penalises expats, especially those from the Windrush generation, for their personal choice of residence during retirement. Nigel Green calls on Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to stop “denying them annual inflation adjustments solely on the basis of where they have chosen to live in retirement.”

The Rules Are Illogical

Although ministers have conceded the rules are “illogical”, their main argument against making changes is the cost. However, they should consider the economic and social costs of forcing expats into financial insecurity or poverty. Many affected people have to rely on their families for financial support, with a third taking on extra work to supplement their income.

The need for policy revision is urgent. Retirees like Gretel Hunte, who moved back to Antigua after working in the UK for more than 25 years, and now has her pension entitlement frozen, deserve their fair share. The deVere Group has warned about the potential repercussions of continuing this discriminatory policy and called for an end to the injustice faced by expats in countries where the state pension is not uprated each year.

Still Not Getting Their Fair Share

As the UK reintroduced the Triple Lock in April, which will see the New and Basic State Pension increase by 10.1%, the government should have ensured it did not alienate its citizens abroad. To continue to freeze the pensions of retirees living outside the UK is not just an economic issue but a moral one.

British Expatriate in Thailand: Unveiling the Hidden Crisis

The considerable size of the United Kingdom’s expatriate community in Thailand, approximately 100,000 British citizens, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2019 estimates, has not gone unnoticed. However, these figures do not exclusively capture the retiree demographic; they encompass Britons from all walks of life. Unfortunately, the precise tally of British retirees in Thailand remains uncertain, owing to the non-existence of an official registry or database dedicated solely to this group. The lack of specific data masks the unique challenges British retirees face in Thailand, contributing to an underreported emerging crisis.

Retirement havens in Thailand, such as Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Hua Hin, have become popular among British retirees. The attractiveness of these locations stems from a combination of a well-developed infrastructure, healthcare facilities that meet international standards, and a sizeable English-speaking population. These factors cater to the expatriate community’s specific needs, easing their transition and enhancing their quality of life. A curious aspect of this trend is that most UK expatriates opting for retirement in these locales are men who have reached their retirement age. This demographic pattern opens up further questions about the gender distribution and unique experiences of the retiree community.

The Silent Struggle: Rising Costs and Shrinking Incomes Threaten Stability for British Retirees in Thailand

Nevertheless, the idyllic picture of retirement in Thailand has been marred by an insidious financial crisis. A pattern of steadily shrinking incomes and dramatically rising living costs has increasingly cornered many retirees into making difficult decisions between fundamental necessities such as housing, food, and medication. This balancing act, steeped in financial instability, places immense strain on their mental and physical health, threatening to erode the quality of their retirement years.

The Dire Consequences of Financial Insecurity: Forced Choices and Lack of Support Jeopardize Lives

The consequences of such financial insecurity can be life-threatening, particularly when expensive but essential medications become unaffordable. The problem is exacerbated by the conspicuous absence of adequate information, guidance, or assistance from the UK for their citizens in Thailand. The lack of support leaves these individuals feeling overlooked and isolated, heightening their stress and anxiety levels. Faced with tough decisions between basic needs, these retirees’ health and quality of life take a severe hit, an untenable situation that calls for immediate attention.

A Call to Action: Addressing the Overlooked Crisis Affecting British Expatriates in Thailand

This unfolding crisis underscores the pressing need for the UK government to reconsider its policies, particularly those relating to “frozen pensions” that disproportionately affect retirees residing abroad, such as those in Thailand. It’s an ethical obligation to ensure that these citizens, who spent their working years contributing to the UK economy, enjoy financial security during their retirement. A reform in the current pension system is urgently required to alleviate the distress experienced by this marginalized group, providing them the dignity and security they deserve in their twilight years.

It’s time to unfreeze pensions and give British retirees abroad the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. The policy of penalising retirees for their choice of retirement location should be cast into the annals of history where it belongs. These 500,000 Brits are not mere numbers; they dedicated their lives to working and paying taxes in the UK and now deserve to reap the rewards, regardless of where they chose to spend their golden years.

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About Rev Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell

Rev. Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell, an Englishman deeply connected to Thailand, was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 28th May 2023.

In addition to his religious journey, he has worked as an online English teacher and pursued a career as an artist. He has also operated a tour desk business with his wife within international brand hotels.

Lloyd has extensive experience in the voluntary sector, specifically in addressing homelessness and social welfare.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and embraces opportunities to meet new people, see new places, explore cultural similarities, and celebrate differences.