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Home Finance Auto-enrolment doubles pension savers – but self-employed still miss out

Auto-enrolment doubles pension savers – but self-employed still miss out

by uma


  • 20m eligible employees were participating in a workplace pension in 2021. Prior to auto-enrolment it was 10.7m.
  • The annual total amount saved for eligible savers across both private and public sectors stands at £114.6 billion in 2021, an increase of £2.9 billion from 2020.
  • Participation rates for eligible employees in 2021 are highest for the 40 to 49 age group (90%) and lowest for the 22 to 29 age group (86%). However, the 22 to 29 age group has seen the largest increase in participation.
  • There is only a small gap in participation rates by gender among full-time eligible employees in 2021 (89% for male employees and 91% for female employees). The gap is bigger among part-time employees with 86% female compared to 74% male.
  • The self-employed group has seen an overall long-term decline in participation from 21% in 2009 to 2010 to 18% in 2020 to 2021. 
  • In the financial year 2021 to 2022, the overall stopping saving level has increased, mainly by those who stop saving due to an end in their employment (1.8% of eligible employees). However, it remains lower than pre-pandemic levels (1.9%).
  • The proportion of workplace pension savers who make an active decision to stop saving has remained at 0.6% in the financial year 2021 to 2022.

The DWP has published the latest workplace pension participation and savings trends data Workplace pension participation and savings trends of eligible employees: 2009 to 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown:

“The pandemic has brought financial turmoil for many people with concerns we could see people forced to stop their pension contributions as they struggle to make ends meet. So far, we’ve seen no dramatic spike in the number of people making an active decision to stop their pension contributions in 2021-22 with only 0.6% of eligible employees opting to do so – the same level as the previous year and slightly below pre-pandemic levels. However, while we may have weathered one storm the challenges continue and whether people can commit to keeping their pension contributions going as we face the biggest cost of living crisis in living memory remains to be seen.

The data shows auto-enrolment has become embedded into our working lives. Over the past decade pension participation has almost doubled from 10.7m to 20m with groups who have previously missed out on workplace pensions now getting involved. The retirement prospects of women and younger workers in particular have been improved and we have even seen the number of non-eligible employees asking to be enrolled on the rise.

However, not everyone is benefiting from the auto-enrolment pension boost. The self-employed continue to stand out as an under-pensioned group with less than one in five currently contributing to a pension. It may be the case they favour other ways of saving for retirement over pensions but more needs to be done to help them prepare for retirement.”