The number of people taking a break from paying into their KiwiSaver accounts has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past year.

And commentators say the trend is likely to continue.

In the year to February, 46 per cent more KiwiSaver members took active contributions holidays, including financial hardship holidays.

A total of 56,200 people are on a break, up from 38,600 in February last year. KiwiSaver membership is 1.65 million.

The trend was expected in an economic downturn, said Steve Wiggins, a spokesman for Gareth Morgan KiwiSaver.

He also expected more Christchurch people to take holidays and apply for financial hardship payouts after the earthquake. And he said the impact of self-employed people taking a break had not been seen because they often made only one KiwiSaver contribution a year.

It was a good thing people had the option to take a holiday, particularly if they were facing financial difficulties. "But make sure you continually review so when you are in a better position to pick it up again, then get back on the horse."

Applying to withdraw the funds on financial hardship grounds was a much higher threshold to meet, and was at the discretion of the KiwiSaver provider's trustee.

The industry was seeing more applications and had set up a working group to standardise the requirements.

People had to remember that if they took a break their employer contributions stopped as well.