Older Australians are being caught in a squeeze. While the pressure is on to extend working lives, many are not able to push on much beyond, or even reach, the retirement age.
The government is encouraging people to work for longer, with the pension age scheduled to rise from 65 now (65.5 from July 2017) to 67 by 2023. And the preservation age, when your super becomes accessible, will rise from 56 now to 60 by 2024.
However data from the Productivity Commission shows that many people are unable to work into their 60’s even if they would like to. Some 40 per cent of people between 60 and 64 who retire have their hands forced by health or job related issues.
For those from 65 to 69 it is about 30 per cent. And the workforce participation rate for older people is only expected to grow by 2 per centage points by 2055.
The number of people working between 65 and 74 is only 13.8 per cent of the total number working between 55 and 65, according to the latest ABS Labour Force data.
Rafal Chomik, researcher in population ageing at the University of NSW, said while unemployment rates for older people are lower than for the very young, finding jobs for that cohort is much harder if they decide to change jobs or are retrenched than for younger workers.
“The message is, if you are older and need or want to work, hold onto a job if you have one. It’s harder for you to find another one.”
Professor Phil Lewis, labour market expert at the University of Canberra, said the employment figures for older men and women are moving in opposite directions. “Older women want to stay in the workforce for longer as a result of social change,” he said.
“With the baby boom generation we are seeing a better educated cohort of women who have more fulfilling jobs wanting to stay on in the workforce.
“Whereas with men it’s the opposite. We are seeing older men with manual skills dropping out of the workforce because they have manual skills in areas like manufacturing where jobs are in decline.”
While the trends are moving in opposite directions, there are still far more men in the workforce in later years than women. For the 55-64 year cohort, 588,939 men were employed compared to 299,690 women, according to the latest ABS figures.
Some forced to work longer
While many older Australians want work but can’t find it, there are, it seems, many others who are forced to retire much later than they planned.
Ask people at what age they plan to retire and you get a very different figure to the age they actually do retire.
A survey by Roy Morgan earlier this year showed that the average Aussie expected to hang up the work clothes at 61, compared to 58 two years earlier.
But if you look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics report on retirement expectations for 2015, the latest available, you find something very different. That shows that 38 per cent of workers aged between 65 and 69 are still working.
Even for the cohort over 70, 7.6 per cent are still employed in some capacity.
There are a number of factors in play driving this reality. And for the most part they’re financial. Roy Morgan found that the average person in the run up to retirement has $286,000 in investments of various sorts.
But the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia estimates that for a comfortable retirement a couple would need a balance of $640,000 much more than what most people have. ASFA says a single would need $545,000.