Pension age increase must be matched with job initiatives

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s announcement last week that the pension age will rise to 70 by 2035 must be complemented with innovative initiatives that tackle the employment barriers currently facing older workers, says National Seniors.

Hockey’s announcement came a day after the National Commission of Audit report recommended increasing the pension age to 70 by around 2053. The pension age is currently 65 and rising to 67 by 2023.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said: “Raising the Age Pension age without real improvements to the employment prospects of older workers, would be futile.

“There’s no point raising the pension age if the jobs aren’t there for older workers,” he said.

“Older Australians will be subjected to the indignity of hanging in there, rolling from one form of welfare to another, before falling into retirement.

“Any pension age increase must come with bold initiatives, driven by government, that engage with, and shift the attitudes of, both business and the community.

“Seniors would like to see something innovative for older workers announced in the May budget,” said O’Neill.

For over a decade, both sides of politics have committed to raising mature age participation rates. But despite training programs, business inducements and information campaigns, discriminatory attitudes persist.

Long term unemployment rates amongst the over 50s are consistently higher than other age groups. Older job seekers are unemployed for an average 71 weeks, compared to the 41 weeks of those aged 25 to 44

OECD 2013 figures show Australia’s mature age (age 55 to 64) workforce participation rates, at 63.6%, fall behind those of other OECD countries such as New Zealand (77), Sweden (77.1), Switzerland (72), Japan (68.2), Germany (65.4) USA (64.5) and Canada (63.8).

Human Rights Commission research indicates that just a 5% increase in paid employment of Australians aged 55-plus would add $48 billion to the economy annually.

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