LIFE expectancy in Wales and across the UK is increasing.

In 1991 men in South Wales could expect to live to 73, while the average life expectancy for women was 78. Now, just 15 years later, this has increased to 78 for men and 82 for women.

At first glance this is clearly a good thing – few would argue a longer life is anything to complain about.

But it’s not all good news.

A population living on average five years longer means five more years of state pension payments per person – potentially costing the taxpayer millions upon millions extra every year.

The government’s answer? To gradually increase the age at which people can claim their state pension.

Historically, men have had to wait a few years longer to claim their pensions, but now plans are in motion to gradually increase the age for women until both have to wait until they are 65 to be allowed to collect the payments.

It has already begun – from last Sunday, March 6, women are being forced to wait until they are 63 to be eligible to collect their state pension, with the 65 landmark to be hit in 2018.

But it won’t stop there – the age for both men and women will then increase, hitting 66 by October 2020, and 67 between 2026 and 2028.

With the government refusing to rule out further increases, experts have said people now in their 20s could face having to work until they are 70 or older.

Emma Garland was elected onto Newport City Council as Labour ward member for St Julians when she was just 19 years old and, now aged 23, could face having to work well into her 70s.

She said: “A pension doesn’t seem like anything that is feasible for me to think about.

“I can’t really picture a time when I will have finished work and be able to enjoy a pension.”

She added that with many young people struggling with living costs and other pressures such as saving to get onto the housing ladder, few gave much thought to retirement.

“There are so many costs before that,” she said.

“It is something I have thought about because as soon as you get any job people start talking about a pension scheme, but it’s hard for it to be a priority.

“There is so much financial insecurity for young people and that means they don’t really think about it.

“It’s very different from when people would leave school at 15 and have a full-time job they would keep for the rest of their lives.”

Although Councillor Garland said she understood why the government had taken steps to increase the state pension age, she was unsure if this was the correct course of action.

“Say the retirement age is 70 and you find out you’re terminally ill at 65,” she said.

“You’ve put all that money and work in and you get nothing out.

“And at 70 you wouldn’t want to do some jobs, so we might end up paying sick leave or Job Seeker’s Allowance for longer.

“There should be more sustainable ways of funding it.”

Argus readers were almost unanimous in their anger at the plans on Facebook.

Roy P G Floyd wrote: “And what about those that die before ever collecting their pensions that THEY paid in?

“Not everybody lives to 100, some never make it past 70!

“My late father died the year before his pension was due.

“The system is corrupt.”

Cheryl Louise Alexander added: “My nan is 64 and can’t claim a state pension until next year.

“She’s unable to work due to numerous operations on her back and can barely walk yet she isn’t able to claim any sort of benefits because ‘she’s not paid enough national insurance’ yet she’s worked since she was 16!

“What a joke the system is!”

But James Morgans took a different point of view, saying: “People living that much longer it only seems right, people will be living beyond a hundred regularly, it has to be paid for somehow.”

He added later: “The average life expectancy was 78 but will approach 100 before us youngsters retire, so people would be claiming state pension on average 20 years longer so the age unfortunately has to increase to cover this.

“Even though this means personally I will retire a lot older I accept the reasons why.”

Others were resigned to the likelihood they would have to continue to work for many years to come.

Richard Holland wrote: “At this rate only politicians and wealthy people will get a pension with everybody else working until they die.”

Katy Stevenson said: “I will most likely be working past 70.

“My best advice to young people is save into a pension as early as you can!”

And Lesley McAteer Grant raised another point, saying: “An awful lot depends on the type of job you do.

“Most manual workers working shifts are ready to finish by 65.

“And personally I don’t want a 75-year-old fireman coming to rescue me.”

Meanwhile, charity Age UK has warned around 50,000 women and 20,000 men aged in their 50s and 60s could miss out on a state pension as a result of changes meaning a record of at least 10 years worth of National Insurance payments is needed to qualify.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “There is evidence suggesting that some people in this age group are so worried about what their finances will be once they retire that they are reluctant to think about it at all, but our strong advice is to take action now to find out exactly where you stand.

“The reality is that the news will be good for some but disappointing for others, which is why it is so important for everyone approaching retirement to check their state pension age and what they’ll receive when they reach it.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The new state pension will bring much-needed certainty for savers and provide a solid foundation upon which people can build up their retirement savings.

“People who haven’t built up enough National Insurance can apply for Pension Credit, which works by topping up their other income and provides additional security in retirement.”

Announcing a further review into the pension age earlier this month, the pensions minister, Baroness Ros Altmann, said: “As our society changes it is only right that we continue to review state pension ages and take into account the relevant factors to make sure that the state pension is sustainable and affordable for future generations.”

For advice on pensions contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.

Newport City Council runs a youth information service for 11 to 25-year-olds offering help with finding a job, creating a CV and other skills.

For more information call 01633 784 054 or email