Thousands of people in jobs where it is not traditional to save in a pension including sales assistants, technicians and dinner ladies are building up retirement savings for the first time, according to new data from the ONS.

The pension tables within the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings show there are nearly 1 million additional savers in Defined Contribution workplace pension schemes since 2011. There are rises across all occupational groups, with some of the biggest increases in sectors with low numbers of staff in schemes.

Sectors with the biggest rises were sales and customer service – up 8%, an increase of 160,000 cashiers, sales assistants, supervisors and related roles who now have pensions, and elementary occupations which rose 5% – an increase of 130,000 security guards, cleaners and dinner ladies among those now in a workplace scheme.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: “The tide is turning for pension saving in Britain after decades of decline. Automatic enrolment is putting pension saving within reach of all workers, whatever job they have, including many on low to middle incomes.

“For the first time, thousands of hardworking people with jobs or businesses that have not traditionally provided pensions can start saving with a contribution from their employer, helping them towards a more prosperous future and restoring fairness in retirement.”

An increase of almost 1% in caring, leisure and other occupations means an increase of 20,000 caretakers, childcare assistants, travel agents and other workers in this sector building up retirement savings.

Occupations where pension saving is well established also saw a rise since 2011:

  • managers, directors and senior officials increased from 31% to 35%
  • administrative and secretarial jobs rose from 17% to 20%
  • skilled trade workers increased from 19% to 21%
  • associate professional and technical is up from 23% to 26%
  • professional jobs rose from 17% to 19%

According to latest ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings pension tables, workplace pension saving increased in 2013 for the first time since 2006 – the biggest rise since 2002.

Around 9 million pension savers will save for the first time or save more due to reforms of workplace pensions with the introduction of automatic enrolment.

13 million people are currently undersaving to deliver the retirement they are likely to want or expect according to the framework for the analysis of future pension incomes, published by DWP in September 2013.