Older Australians are working longer than ever, with retirement ages blowing out much than at the start of the century.
This is partly a result of changes in government policy, with access to the Age Pension being pushed back in recent years. It also coincides with adult children choosing to live with their parents for longer.
The annual Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, which is Australia’s only nationally representative longitudinal household study, also delivered some good news on income, showing that generally the country was becoming more prosperous.
The HILDA survey showed that in 2001, a man’s average retirement age was around 62 but that has now risen to 67, while a women’s average retirement age has risen from 61 to 65.
In the period 2001 to 2004, 46.5 per cent of men aged 60 to 64 and 68.4 per cent of women aged 60 to 64 were retired, while in the period 2017–2019 only 33 per cent of men and 45.8 per cent of women in this age range were retired.
Among women aged 55 to 59, the proportion retired fell from 41.4 per cent in the 2001 to 2004 period to 23.4 per cent in the 2017 to 2019 period.
The report also showed that there were significant numbers of retirees returning to the workforce, particularly among those who chose to retire early.
On average, around 15 per cent of retirees in the 45 to 54 and 55 to 59 age groups returned to the workforce each year.
Even in the 60 to 64 age group, at least 7.7 per cent of retired men and 4.1 per cent of retired women exited retirement and re-entered the workforce in the period 2017–19.
The figures coincide with younger Australians staying at home longer and delaying independence from their parents.
According to the HILDA results, about half of Australians aged 18–29 were now still living at home with their parents, which was up from 41 per cent in 2001.
Some of the good news contained in the report showed that median household disposable incomes had increased by $2116 on the 2017 figures, reaching $84,243 in 2019, which was the first time median disposable income levels had exceeded 2009 levels.
While those figures showed some slight improvement, household disposable income growth has stagnated in the past 10 years.
Average incomes jumped by 28 per cent between 2001 and 2009, but since then incomes have grown by only 6 per cent.
People are becoming increasingly vulnerable to psychological distress over this century, with 23 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men in distress in 2019. This has increased by around 30 per cent since 2007 – comparing to 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in that year.
Melbourne Institute academic Dr Ferdi Botha said employment, economic wellbeing and regular social contact were clear determinants of psychological wellbeing.
“As your income goes up, your likelihood of psychological distress decreases,” Dr Botha said. “And, compared to those who see family and friends every three months at most, people who see family and friends at least once per week are about 10 percentage points less likely to experience psychological distress.”
Australians are smoking significantly less than in 2001.
Just 11 per cent of us smoke daily compared to nearly 19 per cent in 2001.
We are drinking less too – 11 per cent of people drink alcohol five or more days a week compared to 15 per cent in 2002.
However, other health concerns are worsening.
Obesity is growing, with 59 per cent of people overweight or obese, up from 54 per cent in 2006.
There appears to have been little change in the amount of exercise people do. Just over a third of people exercise for 30 minutes at least three times per week, but not every day of the week, which is unchanged from 2001.
Have you had to push back your retirement because your kids are choosing to live with you longer than you had planned? Have you had to re-enter the workforce after you retired? What were your reasons for re-entering the workforce? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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