How Australia's pension rate compares with the world

The adequacy of the Age Pension is regularly in dispute. But how does it compare to other countries?

Ask most people if they think Age Pension payments in Australia are enough to live on, and you’ll probably receive responses ranging from “no” to “absolutely not”.

An Australian National University survey has found that just over 70 per cent of Australian adults believe current Age Pension rates are inadequate.

Read: How Australia’s retirement system is failing older Australians

The full Age Pension rate is $987.60 per fortnight for singles or $1488.80 for couples. According to Australian government figures, more than 2.5 million people receive at least a part Age Pension, with $783 per fortnight being the average.

With the median rental price sitting at $504 per week across Australian capital cities, it’s understandable that many consider the pension rate to be too low.

It seems they may be right, especially when comparing pension rates to other developed countries.

Researchers from Picodi.com analysed average retirement benefits from 44 countries and found Australia is in 12th position. We are one spot above Germany ($731.58 per fortnight), but slightly below Italy ($811.33).

Read: Lower Age Pension age back to 65 and increase rate, say Greens

Taking out top spot is Norway, which gives its seniors a very generous $1329.37 per fortnight. In a country with a strong universal healthcare system and social housing network, life would appear to be good for retirees in Norway.

Beyond Norway, the top five countries with the highest pensions were Switzerland ($1260.83), the US ($1096.06), Finland ($1077.60) and Austria ($1071.01). Particularly notable is the US at number three, a country not usually known for its generous welfare benefits.

Although Australia doesn’t rank as highly as some would like, we are ahead of other developed countries including Greece ($645.90), Canada ($586.58) and Czechia ($463.33).

The Age Pension rate has long been an issue in Australia, along with many of the requirements surrounding the payment.

Read: Mooted changes to the Work Bonus ‘won’t help age pensioners’

With the federal election only weeks away, it seems neither of the major parties is willing to commit to a review of Age Pension rates.

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) recently released a list of 12 demands it wants carried out by whichever party wins government.

Among the policy recommendations, COTA strongly pushes for “a review of the adequacy of the Age Pension to maintain fair and appropriate living standards in retirement for every person dependent on the full rate of pension, with particular reference to ensuring appropriate parity with general living standards.”

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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