LONDON (Reuters Life!) - More than 10 million people living in Britain today, almost a fifth of the population, will reach their 100th birthday, the Department for Work and Pensions said on Thursday.
More than half of these future centenarians are currently aged between 16 and 50.
The rise in life expectancy means many millions of Britons will spend around a third of their lives in retirement, Pensions Minister Steve Webb said in a statement.
"These staggering figures really bring home how important it is to plan ahead for our later lives," he said.
"That's why we are reforming the pension system to make it sustainable for the long term, making sure people can look forward to a decent state pension when they retire, and helping millions save into a workplace pension." In October, the government said the state pension age for men and women will rise to 66 by 2020 and that it would cut the tax relief on pension savings for around 100,000 higher earners, in a move designed to help reduce a record budget deficit.
Ministers also said they were working on the introduction of a flat-rate state pension to simplify the system, reduce inequalities between men and women and encourage people to save for their pensions by eliminating means testing.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook online (www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html) ranked the United Kingdom 28th out of 224 countries in a 2010 list estimating average life expectancy. The UK life expectancy average was 79.92 years. Monaco topped the CIA list with an average life expectancy of 89.78.
Japan, Canada, France, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Ireland were some of the countries ranked ahead of the United Kingdom on the CIA list. The United States ranked 49th at 78.24 years.
The latest figures, based on official population projections, show that the number of centenarians in Britain will reach half a million for the first time in 2066.
The Centenarian Clerk at Britain's Department for Work and Pensions works with Buckingham Palace to ensure people receive a birthday card from the Queen on their 100th birthday.
"He will be very busy in 2066!" the department said.
Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato