Friday, June 08, 2012

Australia: Economic Reform Report Calls for Raising Participation Rates of Older Workers

The Grattan Institute, in issuing reform recommendations for providing Australia economic benefits over the next decade, noted that no other reform opportunity compared to tax reform and raising participation rates for women and older Australians. With respect to the latter, the report — "Game-changers: Economic reform priorities for Australia" — said that "Increasing the workforce participation rate of older people would mean that Australia’s GDP would be about $25 billion higher by 2022."

Finding that "[o]lder people generally stop working for discretionary reasons, such as opting to retire once they reach ‘retirement age’, rather than because of difficulty finding work, or barriers such as disability," the Grattan Institute calls for increasing the ages at which people become eligible for the aged pension and eligible to access their superannuation. Specifically, the report recommends raising both the pension age (the age at which people can qualify for the age pension — currently 65 for men and 64 for women, to rise to 65 for both sexes by 2014) and the preservation age (the age at which a worker can access their superannuation — currently 55) to 70.

According to the report, "[m]easures to encourage businesses to employ older workers, such as the Commonwealth Government’s recently announced Jobs Bonus and related initiatives, are likely to have a relatively limited effect on older age participation." In fact, it suggests that "it is not clear that governments can do much to alter employer perceptions. It may be that increasing the pension and preservation ages would do more than anything else to change both employer and employee expectations."
Those retiring today have benefited from an ‘unexpected’ increase in longevity, and it is reasonable that in enjoying this benefit, they share some of the costs that it imposes. The only generation that is ‘unfairly’ treated by increases in the pension age is the cohort that has already retired. Younger people will have to work to any increased retirement age as well.
Source: Grattan Institute Media Release (June 7, 2012)

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