3.5m pensioners expected to retire to sunnier climes
By Maurice Chittenden and John Elliott
The Sunday Times of Dec. 10,2006
IT is being called “silver flight”. Britons are retiring abroad in such numbers that one in five pensioners
will live overseas by 2050.
Bad weather, soaring house prices and traffic congestion are the factors driving them to leave for warmer,
less densely populated climes.
A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research, to be published this week, calculates that more than
3.3m British pensioners will make their home abroad by the middle of the century. It is a threefold
increase to the 1.02m pensioners now living overseas and shatters the conventional assumption that
grandparents will resign themselves to staying in familiar surroundings.
The report, Brits Abroad, is the first comprehensive assessment of the number and profile of Britons
living abroad. Researchers have collected census and other data from nearly 20 countries. The top choice
for retirement is Australia, with 245,000 pensioners living there in January this year. Canada, with
157,000, and the United States, with 132,000, follow behind.
Spain is the most popular destination on the European mainland, with 75,000, followed by Italy and France,
both with 34,000. Ireland had 105,000 British pensioners by last January. At the other extreme, three
pensioners have gone to Libya, two are in Afghanistan and there is even one in Kazakhstan.
The study will throw new light on the implications of Britain’s ageing population, an issue that Gordon
Brown has put at the centre of next year’s comprehensive spending review.
Danny Sriskandarajah, the institute’s associate director, said: “Our report shows more people are moving
from country to country: to study, to work and increasingly to enjoy their retirement.
“This silver flight is the result of more Brits being increasingly willing and able to spend their
retirement in Adelaide rather than Accrington.
“But it’s not fun in the sun for every British pensioner abroad. Our research shows that some find it
difficult to adjust to life overseas and struggle to access healthcare, or find themselves lonely without
local language skills. Not every Brit enjoys their retirement in Benidorm more than they would have if
they’d stayed in Bournemouth.”
The research shows that it is not just the middle class opting for retirement in the sun. Sriskandarajah
added: “The ease with which people can now move overseas, especially to parts of Europe, has democratised
emigration. The combination of easyJet fares for a few quid and Bulgarian bungalows for a few thousand
pounds has opened up emigration and second-home possibilities for whole new groups of people.”
Marie Ottley, 64, who moved to Melle in southwest France with her husband Arthur, 72, two years ago, said:
“We have no regrets. It’s the pace of life, the weather, the food. We find we can live a little better here
for roughly the same money we spent in Britain.”
The couple, from Halstead in Essex, used to run an insulation company. They had a holiday home in a
village outside Melle for two years but then bought a house in the town when they retired. It cost
£100,000 less than the house they sold in Essex.
“It is important not to spend the change in case it doesn’t work out or something happens to one of you
and the other wants to go back to Britain,” Ottley said.
“But we love it here. When we do drive home we have 600 miles of totally relaxed driving through France
and then a white knuckle ride when we get off the ferry in Dover to get to Essex. The traffic in Britain
“Here we can ride our bikes and play golf. The other day Arthur was picking raspberries. There is no
need to put the heating on for more than an hour a day.
“We attend a bilingual library and go to wine tastings. There is a French alternative for just about
everything apart from Bird’s Custard Powder. But I don’t like the phrase ‘silver flight’. I am still a
The Ottleys and others who go to Europe qualify for the annual state pension increases given to those
living in Britain, but those who move to Australia, Canada, South Africa or New Zealand have their
state pensions frozen.