New research undertaken by National Seniors Australia has revealed that many aged pensioners would be prepared to go back to work and why they want to.
The survey conducted in February of around 4000 older Australians revealed 20% of pensioners would consider re-entering paid work after retirement. Another 16% had already done it.
“Growing this pool of workers can provide a big shot in the arm for the Australian economy,’’ said Professor John McCallum, National Seniors’ CEO and Director of Research.
Money was a motivation for many of these, with 60% of pensioners mentioning money as a reason for seeking paid work.
“Many seniors are struggling to make ends meet on the pension but the pension rules are a strong disincentive to do paid work. This traps pensioners at low quality of life including too many in poverty,” said Professor McCallum.
National Seniors, Australia’s peak advocacy organisation for older Australians, is campaigning for the Federal Government to exempt employment income from the Age Pension means test to let pensioners work.
“Our cause is clear and simple,” said Professor McCallum. “The nation is crying out for workers in so many industries. Allowing pensioners to work would help these industries, the pensioners, and the Australian economy.”
Those surveyed were invited to comment on their reasons for working after retirement and some had tragic personal stories to tell us. Pensioners’ own words are the clearest guide to their situation.
“Currently [my] only income is age pension and [I’m] in private rental, so it’s bloody tough!!” wrote a 74-year-old.
“We have been scammed out of our retirement savings and despite my disability we need to find an income source,” wrote another person on the aged pension.
“My previous partner had a gambling problem,” wrote another. “So, I had to earn what my pension allowed me to cover living expenses, I have no superannuation to fall back on.”
“I’m desperate for money in order to pay my bills, rent and food,” was one 81-year-old pensioner’s reason for seeking post-retirement work.
Money is not the only reason older Australians want to work though. Many want to work to support the nation, motivated by a public spirit and a desire to serve, to help with the workforce shortages caused by COVID-19.
“I was a trained nurse, would love to help in these difficult times,” wrote one 70-year-old.
A 69-year-old revealed that she had “successfully sought work as a COVID-19 vaccinator” because she wanted to “support the healthcare workforce during the pandemic.”
Other survey respondents said they wanted to work “To help a farmer somewhere”, “To support struggling small business operators”, or “To assist somewhere in an industry that is beneficial to the workforce.”
Despite these strongly voiced motivations, restrictions on what pensioners can earn before they lose pension income remain a major barrier. This situation is getting worse as cost of living rises.
A 69-year-old pensioner wrote, “Worked in aged care, 20 years’ experience. Feel that my knowledge across all aspects of the industry would be of benefit to employers and employees. Would be interested in going back into the industry but financially not worth it.”
“It’s crazy and it really has to change,” said Professor McCallum. “With the aged care system needing a much larger workforce and a national workforce crisis, we must let pensioners work!”