The results of the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index have been released, revealing that Australia has a poverty rate of 33 per cent for those over the age of 60.
The global list, which rates the economic and social wellbeing of people aged 60 and over in 96 countries, now places Australia at number 17 – a drop of four places from the previous year.
The new rate of 33 per cent of older Australians living below the poverty line is shocking, but it is slightly better than the 2014 figure of 35.5 per cent. Rankings aside, it’s clear that income security remains a serious issue for our Age Pensioners and older Australians in general.
Number one on the list is Switzerland, which has a 16 per cent occurrence of older people in poverty, making it the best place in the world for retirees and pensioners to live.
According to Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), these results come as no surprise and, whilst poverty is a way of life for many pensioners, it’s even worse for those who aren’t yet 65 and cannot claim an Age Pension. The Newstart Allowance is at least $150 less per week than the single Age Pension.
As CPSA senior advisor Charmaine Crowe explains, “Our pension is well below the 50 per cent mark of the average wage here in Australia, and that’s why we’ve got such a high score in this report. It’s even worse for older people trying to find work later in life while living on Newstart, which is at least $150 a week less than the single age pension.”
Ms Crowe has called on the Government to ensure that the Age Pension at least covers the cost of life’s essentials, especially considering it plans to raise the pension age from 65 to 70 – a move the CPSA opposes, claiming it will lead even more people into poverty.
Australian National University’s Centre for Research on Health and Wellbeing’s Professor Hal Kendig believes that the retirement income of older women is an area of concern that needs to be addressed.
“We need to comprehensively look at superannuation over the lifespan, and for women it’s particularly difficult because many have broken labour force participation,” said Professor Kendig. “So they’re in superannuation and out of it, and they can recover the superannuation or they don’t, or they’re tied to a partner who has good superannuation or maybe they’re not by the time they get to later life.”
The report showed that Australia is ranked 62nd when it comes to income security, falling behind countries such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. But, on a more positive note, we are ranked fifth in the world in terms of the health of older people.
Do these figures alarm you? Are you one of the many aged over 60 living in poverty? What sort of action should the Government take to remedy this situation? Do these figures make you worry about the Government’s plan to raise the pension age?