MEDIA RELEASE: ACOSS/UNSW report highlights the need to increase Newstart and ensure the age pension is sufficient to prevent older Australians living in poverty

Today’s report ‘2020 Poverty in Australia Overview’ highlights the fact that the government’s refusal to increase Newstart is forcing many older Australians to live way below the poverty line, the peak consumer body of older Australians said today.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said the findings in the ACOSS/UNSW report was yet more evidence of the need to increase Newstart, and a timely reminder for the Retirement Income Review about the role of the Age Pension in alleviating poverty for Australians as they age.

“More than half of the 680,000 Australians receiving Newstart are older than 45, with one in four older than 55,” Mr Yates said.

“We know that employers target older workers for retrenchment, and 1 in 3 have admitted that they actively and illegally refuse to recruit workers over 50. At the same time changing job markets mean many older workers are being pushed out of traditional industries.

“As a result, older Australians on Newstart are living off a weekly allowance that’s more than $100 a week below the poverty line after years of working and saving for their future, with years to go until they qualify for the age pension.

“As well as increasing Newstart, the Government must change the Newstart rules to make sure that older people nearing retirement are not forced to live off their intended retirement savings in order to survive. The so-called Liquid Assets Test that forces older unemployed people to run down their savings must be abolished”

Mr Yates said the Report’s findings also provide the Government’s Retirement Income Review with some stark questions about the adequacy of the Age Pension.

“Government’s on both sides have never formally proclaimed the purpose of the Age Pension, but there is widespread acceptance that the principal purpose of the pension is to prevent older Australians having to live in poverty,” Mr Yates said.

“Today’s report showing the age pension is just below the poverty line is also a reminder that the current Age Pension rate will not achieve that goal alone and may need to be increased. Furthermore, we note that ACOSS has used 50% of median income as the poverty line, while the European Union defines poverty as below 60% of median income. If the EU measure were to be adopted in Australia it would show that older people have the highest rate of poverty at 1 in 4 people age 65 years and over.

“Whether it’s just above the poverty line or sitting in poverty, it’s clear from this report that older Australians are doing it tough. As a country we need to do better for all people living in or near poverty.”

“COTA will call on the Retirement Income Review to explore whether Australia should adopt a consistent poverty measure used by other western countries, such as the European Union, by considering whether the official poverty measure should be set at 60% of median income.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439; Hannah Craft 0423 377 965

A full copy of the Poverty in Australia 2020: Part 1, Overview report is available from: http://povertyandinequality.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Poverty-in-Australia-2020_Part-1_Overview.pdf with broader data available at http://povertyandinequality.acoss.org.au/poverty/

 

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.

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