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  • Writer's pictureDom Tuffrey

IN THE NEWS - "I retired to Thailand but my UK state pension was frozen – now I’m struggling"

While the Asian country is more affordable than the UK, John Jones says it is getting harder to support his family on just £75 a week state pension

John Jones lives with his wife, Pin Bunpah, and their son, Leo, in Thailand, but says his frozen UK state pension is not enough to live on (Photo: John Jones)

Senior world reporter

April 26, 2024

British pensioners in Thailand say that despite a lower cost of living in the Asian country, the UK Government’s decades-long “frozen” state pension policy is making life a struggle for thousands of people who have retired overseas.

John Jones, 77, left the UK in 1986 and has jetted all over the world through his work in international sales and marketing. Originally from Maidstone in Kent, he settled in Thailand in 1998 and now lives in a farming community near the northern city of Udon Thani, drawn by the charming landscape of rice fields, forests and hills and the simple way of life.

When Mr Jones retired in 2011, he was entitled to just under £75 a week in state pension. It has been frozen at that amount ever since.

“With the cost of living going up, what used to buy you groceries 13 years ago you can’t get half of that now,” he told i. “We have to budget and there’s no savings as such, I mean, it’s impossible.

“It’s a hardship, but I scrape through. I give my wife every penny of my pension and go nowhere and do nothing, I’m just a vegetable.”

“I am not in the best of health,” Mr Jones added, explaining that he suffers from a heart condition and has to regularly take tablets, which is an added expense.

Britons in Thailand do not receive the increase to state pension every year in line with whichever is highest out of wage growth, inflation or 2.5 per cent, known as the triple lock. This is because Thailand, among many other countries outside of Europe, does not have a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK.

As of March 2022, there were around 480,000 people receiving the UK state pension in countries that do not get increases, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Frozen Pensions found that more than 95 per cent of these pensioners live in Commonwealth countries, most in Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

While Thailand is far more affordable than the UK, Mr Jones said he worries about his family’s future. His wife, Pin Bunpah, 39, does not work – she would earn “peanuts” if she did – and cares for him and their seven-year-old son, Leo, full time.

“I worry about the funeral costs, it’s about £2,000 [for a cremation]. Well, I haven’t got that money, so the inheritance I am going to leave my wife is a debt, which I am not proud of,” Mr Jones said.

He believes receiving the annual increase pensioners do in the UK would relieve some of the burden his family faces, but said “the appetite and the attitude [of the Government] towards pensioners abroad at the moment is zero”.

He has contemplated leaving Thailand, but having been away from the UK for nearly four decades, Mr Jones said his family, friends and “everything that I’ve come to accept and appreciate is here."

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