Around three quarters of eligible private sector employees saved into a workplace pension in at least three of the last four years, data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has shown.
However, this fell over 2016, despite the ongoing rollout of automatic enrolment (AE), leading to a "persistency" rate of 74% down one percentage point.
Nevertheless, the number of private sector eligible employees saving last year alone rose from 70% in 2015 to 73%, while total contributions increased from £44.4bn to £46.4bn.
The DWP's Workplace pension participation and saving trends for eligible employees 2016 update, published on 15 June, also revealed the agriculture and fishing sector saw the sharpest climb in participating employees - from 34% in 2015 to 45% last year.
Those in professional occupations have the highest participation rate, at 86%, while skilled trade occupations languished at the bottom with 63%.
However, in terms of age, the youngest - 22- to 29-year-olds - has seen the most significant growth, with 68% in the private sector now saving into a pension, compared to 63% in 2015. Take-up in the 40- to 49-year-old group is highest, with 76% of private sector employees participating.
Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith said it was encouraging that all age groups have seen participation rates improve dramatically since 2012.
"The latest savings statistics from the DWP are truly astonishing and show that AE is reversing the decline in pension saving," she said. "There's been a significant increase in coverage in all age groups, including the over-50s who previously appeared to be fairly disengaged with pensions. It's likely that the combination of the pension freedoms and longer working lives have really changed attitudes.
"The largest increase has come from millennials with a threefold increase. These hugely encouraging statistics shouldn't stop us extending AE to all those missing out, which could make an even greater difference."
The data also revealed that, in the private sector, there are an equal number of men and women saving into pensions.
Encouragingly for AE, a higher proportion of the lowest earners are saving into a workplace pension, with nearly two-thirds of those earning £10,000 to £20,000 saving, up from 59% in 2015.
However, just one in six (16%) of the self-employed were saving into a pension, and 25% of employees were not eligible.
Royal London director of policy Sir Steve Webb said this again shows the importance of expanding the AE programme.
"Just five years ago in 2012, less than a third of eligible private sector workers was in a workplace pension," he said. "The fact that this proportion had risen to nearly three quarters by 2016 is extraordinary. When all firms have completed the process of AE by the end of 2017/18, we could easily be talking about more than four in five private sector workers starting to save for their retirement.
"These figures do however show the contrast between employees and the self-employed. Even with a slight improvement in 2016, pension scheme membership by the self-employed stands at just one in six. Urgent action to include the self-employed within a version of AE cannot happen quickly enough."
There is little divergence of participation in the private sector among the regions of Great Britain. This figure was highest in Scotland at 75%, while the south-west, east, north-west, and Yorkshire and The Humber each sat at 72%.
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