From the TUC

The bottom half own only nine per cent of the nation’s wealth – big divide on pensions too

11 Dec 2009, by in Pensions & Investment, Politics

There are some new interesting official stats about the distribution of wealth – even if they were collected before the recession bit. The top line is that the least wealthy half of the population earn just 9% of the nation’s wealth, while the top 20% own 62% of privately held wealth. The bottom ten per cent own negative wealth – i.e. they owe more than they own.

The top 10% of households were 2.4 times wealthier than the next richest 10%, and 4.8 times wealthier than the bottom 50%.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 5% of households own personalised number plates – perhaps the stand-out definition of having more money than sense. The report says “only five”. I’m surprised it’s that high, but perhaps they are big among statisticians (and I am sure there are some good jokes about what would make a good number plate for a stats geek).


There is a lot of information here on pensions too. As far as I can tell – though it is not explicit – they sensibly include GPPs and employer provided stakeholders in their definition of employer provided pensions.

The gender breakdown is interesting:

  • Among people with jobs (including the self-employed), 18% of men are in DB schemes and 17% on women. But for DC schemes half as many men (11%) as women (7%) are DC scheme members. This, of course, is a public sector effect. But it shows that women get a much fairer deal in the public sector – and this one reason why public sector pensions are “more generous” to use the usual language of their critics.
  • Probe a little deeper and we find that women are building up smaller pensions than men – whether DC or DB – but that DC pension pots are on average pathetically small. The median DB scheme for a man was worth £120,300, compared to £60,800 for a woman. But in employer backed DC schemes the median male pot was only £9,000 and that for women just £4,800. (Part of this difference – but only  part – will be because the typical DB scheme member will be older than the typical DC saver and will therefore have had time to build up a pot. (And there are some interesting age breakdowns in the detailed tables.)

Unfortunately they do not provide quartile or quintile ranges for pensions wealth, but the difference between the mean and median shows that there is a big disparity between most savers and those at the top when it comes to pensions wealth.

Type of pension Percentage of employees with median mean
DC 9% £6,500 £26,200
AVC 1% £9,500 £16,900
Personal pension 11% £12,000 £32,800
DB 19% £83,800 £167,400
All non-state pensions 36% £34,000 £105,900

The last line includes everyone working currently contributing to any kind of pension, other than state pensions. A gender breakdown shows that 40% of men are contributing to any pension and 32% of women.

Another way of putting that is that 64% of people at work are not currently contributing to a pension.

The chapter on attitudes (which includes behaviour) tells us some of the reasons why (though remember this was a pre-recession survey):

  • 40% of all individuals under state pension age “would rather have a good standard of living today than save for retirement”
  • 35% have never saved from current income
  • 57% agreed with the statement, ‘Investing in property is the best way to save for retirement’.
  • 50% agreed that ‘Having a pension is the best way to save for retirement’.
  • Oddly, more over 40s without a pension expected to be better off or have the same income in retirement (42%), than those with a pension – only 21% of whom thought that they woud be better off retired.

There’s lots of depressing reading here – including a chapter on debt.

2 Responses to The bottom half own only nine per cent of the nation’s wealth – big divide on pensions too

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