The UK Data Service

Understanding society: Home to numerous unique datasets, from large-scale surveys to population cohort studies

From researching pensions to understanding society, the UK is a data powerhouse and at the forefront of making it visible and available to new users. 

The UK Data Service (UKDS) is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded infrastructure partnership between the universities of Essex, Manchester, Edinburgh and Southampton, University College London (UCL) and Jisc. It provides training, support services and access to major UK government-sponsored surveys, cross-national surveys, longitudinal studies, UK census data, international macro-data, and business and qualitative data.

The service has repeatedly delivered impact and demonstrated its value. For example, the Resolution Foundation used a combination of data resources from UKDS and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to assess future pensioner income.  For their analysis they also used data from the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society, its successor. And ‘forward-looking’ projections used two ONS surveys: New Earnings Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. 

The researchers found that future pensioners should experience levels of ‘earnings replacement adequacy’ – which projects retirement cash flow assuming retirement at state pension age – similar to those of recent retirees. Also that the policies now being implemented are preventing a deterioration in outcomes for future cohorts of pensioners, but that ambitions for earnings replacement adequacy appear to remain quite far out of reach. 

These results informed the discussion within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policy paper Automatic Enrolment Review 2017: Maintaining the Momentum. DWP will lower the age at which employees are required to be auto-enrolled in workplace pensions from 22 to 18, as well as widening eligibility to lower-income workers.


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