The number of UK eligible employees joining a workplace pension fell by some 600,000 between 2003 and 2013, but numbers have since grown by almost 1 million because of the impact of auto-enrolment, a government analysis has stated.
Examining new Office for National Statistics figures, the Department for Work and Pensions found that between 2003 and 2013, there was a decline in the number of eligible employees participating in a workplace pension from 12.3 million (65%) to 11.7 million (58%).
However, between 2012 and 2013 there was a significant increase of 900,000, 'potentially showing the positive impact of the workplace pension reforms', stated the Official Statistics on workplace pension participation and saving trends of eligible employees report.
Pensions minister Steve Webb said auto-enrolment was 'transforming the way Britain's workers see pension saving and, as these industry-by-industry figures show, we're seeing the change we need across the whole economy'.
He said: 'We still have some way to go until we've completely put right the years of decline in our pension system, but we're making very strong and steady progress.'
Pension participation remained the highest at 77% in public administration, education and health, and lowest in agriculture and fishing at 21%, the document noted.
The overall downward trend, in pension participation, across all industries was mostly driven by trends in the private sector.
Between 2012 and 2013 most industries in the private sector saw a slight increase in participation, with energy and water seeing the largest, from 64% to 74%.
In the same period, banking, finance and insurance saw a 13 percentage point increase in pension participation.
So far about 4.7 million people in the UK have been automatically enrolled, said the DWP.
Automatic enrolment is being introduced in a phased approach. Every employer in the country is due to offer eligible staff a workplace pension by 2018, regardless of how many people they employ, the department said.
This means that over the next four years, the DWP expects the number of pension savers across all industry sectors to climb further.