National Seniors is calling on the Federal Government to raise the Work Bonus for Age Pensioners to $10,000 a year without them losing any of their benefits.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said National Seniors’ research showed the key issue confronting the majority (51 per cent) of full age pensioners was its adequacy to cover the cost of living.
Many were willing and able to work part-time but a loss of pension income was a major disincentive.
Mr Henschke said under the existing system, known as the Work Bonus, age pensioners could earn up to $250 a fortnight to a maximum of $6,500 a year without penalty. Raising the limit to $10,000pa would lift the amount to $335 fortnightly.
With the single Age Pension, including supplements, set at $894.40 a fortnight, the increase meant pensioners would be earning $540 more than the minimum wage a year, or an extra $21 a fortnight.
“This is hardly going to put them on easy street,” Mr Henschke said.
“Pensioners are struggling to pay for basics such as food, power and health costs,” Mr Henschke said.
“The cost of electricity and health insurance have skyrocketed and we are constantly hearing from seniors who are reluctant to use air-conditioning in summer or heating in winter, or who go without food or other essential items to pay their power bills.
“Our research shows one in three Age Pensioners would continue in paid employment part-time if the Work Bonus was increased to $10,000.”
Mr Henschke said Australia’s ageing population meant the number of people aged 65 and over was expected to increase from 15 per cent now to more than 20 per cent by 2042 and 25 per cent in 2062.
Many older people would not have sufficient superannuation to produce adequate retirement income and it was imperative to create an environment in which those who wanted to continue working part-time were able to do so.
“In 2015-16, half of all men and 65 per cent of women aged 60-64 had less than $100,000 in superannuation,” Mr Henschke said.
“Increasing the Work Bonus to $10,000pa would be a good first step to improving the lot of Age Pensioners and reducing widespread pensioner poverty, which sits at around 30 per cent. It provides a way for pensioners to help themselves and to make ends meet without having to rely further on government income support.”