THE number of working pensioners in Devon has more than doubled over the past decade and rocketed by a third last year alone, fuelling fears people cannot afford to retire.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were more than 20,000 people in the county working after starting to collect their pensions at the end of 2011 – 13.4 per cent of the total retirement-age population.
This represents a significant hike on the 9,000 recorded in 2002, and the 15,300 – 10 per cent of the over 65s – in 2010.
The increase comes against a background of economic turmoil and rising living costs such as food and energy bills. Pensioners have also seen any additional income they receive from their savings plummet because of rock-bottom interest rates.
Financial pressures are among the factors cited by the ONS to account for a rise nationally in people working past retirement, as well as people living longer and wanting to remain active.
Tory MP for Newton Abbot Anne Marie Morris, who secured the figures for Devon in response to a parliamentary question, said: "It is interesting to see the number of people aged over 65 in work has increased considerably in recent years.
"I think it is important for us to consider why, because a balance does need to be struck between us benefiting from the wisdom the experienced provide in the workplace and the need for jobs to be available for our youngest generation."
Martyn Rogers, director of Age UK Exeter, said: "As people are finding it harder to manage, with very low interest rates people aren't earning anything on their savings, it's not surprising people are choosing to work longer."
It comes as a peer suggested retired people could be encouraged to do community work such as caring for the "very old" or face losing some of their pension.
Lord Bichard, a former benefits chief who is a member of a committee investigating demographic changes and their impact on public services, said "imaginative" ideas were needed to meet the cost of an ageing society and stop older people being a "burden on the state".
The state pension age is already being increased by the Government to 67 for men and women by 2028, to reflect the fact that people are living longer.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "More of us are living longer. This means people are going to have to work beyond the traditional retirement age if they are to afford a good quality of life in retirement, and that's why the state pension age will rise over the coming years for men and for women.
"We are also helping to encourage more people to put something aside for the future, by automatically enrolling eligible people into a workplace pension."