COTA stands for a fair, secure and adequate standard of living for all older people. We believe the combination of Age Pension, superannuation and income from private savings (the three ‘pillars of retirement income’) should be sufficient to guarantee at least a modest lifestyle for all retired people.
Basic economic security is essential for wellbeing in older age yet many older Australians live in, or close to poverty, even after long and fully productive lives. COTA pursues every opportunity to improve incomes for older people, particularly those with the least, such as single, full Pensioners who do not own their own homes and who have low superannuation balances and other savings (more often women). Widowhood and increasing rates of older age divorce and separation can also have a devastating impact on economic security in later life.
COTA is concerned too with those in older middle age who have not yet reached Pension eligibility age, but are unemployed and reliant on the unacceptably low Newstart Allowance. We are a vocal part of the broad and insistent community call for raising the Newstart rate and lifting recipients out of poverty. Also, increasingly, older workers may be ‘under-employed’, meaning that they desire more work than the part-time or casual jobs they are able to get. This can significantly reduce their ability to add to retirement savings (and makes it hard to avoid eating into what they have already saved) at a crucial time. This issue is an important aspect of our agenda for improved employment outcomes for older people.
A key theme of COTA’s work on retirement incomes over the past few years has been to advocate strongly for Government to take an integrated policy approach to retirement incomes. By this we mean that continued piecemeal changes made to separate parts of the retirement incomes system will undermine retirement incomes (and affordability of the system overall) over the longer term. Australia needs certainty about retirement incomes policy that covers pensions, superannuation, taxation, concessions and support for workforce participation. This integrated framework needs also to take account of the key costs of health, aged care and housing in later life.