Calls grow for changes to pension eligibility rules to ease Australia’s job crisis

Aricle by Kiara Camuglia courtesy of Starts at 60.

Calls are growing once again for amendments to the current pension eligibility rules to allow seniors to return to work without having their pension payments reduced.

With the current nationwide job crisis, the change could come as a welcome relief for the country’s struggling economy while also allowing seniors to earn some much-needed income in the process.

In a recent interview on 3AW Breakfast with Ross and Russel, Australian Industry Group CEO, Innes Willox, sympathised with Australia’s over 60s, admitting the existing pension rules make it “very difficult for older Australians to continue to work and to contribute”.

“Next week the pension age goes up to 67 and so, you know, we’re all living longer…it doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have to work five days a week…but there’s plenty of opportunities with about 425,000 unfilled jobs in the country at the moment, if we get it right around pension settings and work rules, to allow people to work a bit longer,” Willox said.

“At the moment, there’s just too many barriers in the way for a lot of people,” he said.

When asked about what older Australians can bring to the workforce that “perhaps” younger generations can’t, Willox cited the skillset of older Australian workers in addition to their lengthy experience as a considerable asset to employers.

“When you think of people who worked for a long time, they’ve built up an enormous amount of skills, they’ve got a lot of experience, they don’t panic, they know what to do in different situations…they also have a lot of capability to mentor younger people to provide that experience and that skill,” Willox said.

Willox’s push for older Australians to be able to re-enter the workforce with ease comes after Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton said he wanted to double the amount age pensioners can earn before their pensions are reduced in an effort to both fix staff shortages and help with the rising cost of living.

In a statement released on June 27, the Coalition leader said the policy would “help relieve pressure on a very tight labour market” as well as “put downward pressure on inflation and interest rates”.

“Employers can’t find staff – thousands of jobs across hospitality, agriculture, tourism and retail remain open. This policy ensures that pensioners and veterans, who want to work, are not financially penalised. It puts more money into their pocket,” Dutton said.

“There are around 80,000 age pensioners and veterans who are choosing to work who will likely benefit from this change.”

The Australian Retail Association (ARA) has also previously pushed for exemptions to the age pension income test to get older Australians back into the workforce, claiming pensioners hold the key to relieving staff shortages.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said “making changes that exempt employment income from the Age Pension income test going forward would benefit everyone in our economy”.

“It provides pensioners with the opportunity to supplement their income if they wish, retailers with access to a willing and capable workforce to assist amid ever-present labour shortages, and the wider economy with a more empowered pension group that will be mobilised to spend by newfound employment opportunities,” Zahra said in a statement.

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