What kind of country leaves its elderly living in poverty?
The recently released OECD Report Pensions at a Glance 2015 highlights the very serious inadequacy of the Age Pension in Australia.
It showed that more than one-third of Australian pensioners are living below the poverty line. This means that Australia has one of the worst records for the financial security of our older people.
The report highlights the urgent need for the Commonwealth Government to reform the welfare system, including the age pension, to ensure that older people and other low income groups can live with dignity.
Mission Australia and other support services are seeing increasing numbers of age pensioners finding it hard to make ends meet. Among age pensioners, the most vulnerable group are those in private rental who struggle each fortnight to pay their rent, putting them at risk of homelessness.
The report exposes the unacceptably precarious situation that many elderly Australians are living in. It’s a national shame – what kind of country do we live in if we cannot look after our elderly and most vulnerable?
The Age Pension was developed to support older home owners, whose housing costs are much lower compared to people renting privately.
Age pensioners who rent privately are eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), in addition to their pension. However, this payment has not kept up with rising rents. The level of CRA is insufficient to ensure pensioners in private rental accommodation maintain an adequate standard of living.
In 2012-13, single people aged 65 and over who were renting in the private market spent 42 per cent of their income on housing, three times higher than the average housing expenditure. In 2014, one in four CRA recipients aged 75 and over were in housing stress, meaning they spend more than 30% of their money on housing costs.
We urgently need reform of the age pension and CRA to include settings to enable pensioners and other low-income groups living in private rental to maintain an adequate standard of living.