We keep hearing that Australia is ageing, but what does that look like?
The Senior's analysis of ABS population data from 1982-2022 shows a growing proportion of people aged 55+ representing the whole population, a shrinking amount of younger people, and a greater proportion of the overall population being eligible for retirement.
What's the evidence?
In 2022, 28.69 per cent (7,460,588) of Australia's population was aged 55 or more. This compared with 18.95 per cent (2,876,023) in 1982.
The percentage of people aged 85 or more - our oldest age category - more than doubled in that time; in 2022 they represented 2.11 per cent (548,989) of the population, compared with 0.7 per cent (105,653) in 1982.
Here's a fun fact: ABS population data grouped everyone aged 85+ together until 2002, when age brackets appeared in five-year increments up to 99. This made it clear how many centenarians there were; from 3083 in 2002 to 6178 in 2022.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare attributes the ageing population to increasing life expectancy and declining fertility rates. It projects that by 2066, about 4.5 million people will be aged 65-74, 3.5 million will be aged 75-84, and 2.2 million will be 85 or more.
What does this mean for you, and the country?
Big questions that seniors might want to think about may include:
- Do I have enough money to support myself for a longer lifespan?
- How healthy am I?
- What lifestyle supports might be readily available if I needed help?
- When might I be eligible for the age pension?
Companies and governments providing services to people aged 55-plus will need to consider how many people will be required to work in aged care and health services, and how many people will need to be supported by the age pension.
In 1982, the number of working age (15-64) people in Australia was 9,937,607, or 65.46 per cent of the population. In 2022, the figures were 16,809,020, or 64.64 per cent of the population. But the number of people of retirement age (65+) in 1982 was 9.86 per cent, or 1,496,475 people, while in 2022 it was 17 per cent of the population, or 4,435,263 - almost double.
What can be done?
Age pension eligibility age has risen to 67, with some contending it should go up to 70 so there are more working people to support the ageing population.
An action of Australia's Aged Care Workforce Strategy, designed to address shortcomings in the industry, is to introduce new ways to attract and keep people in that sector.
Nationals Seniors Australia launched a campaign in 2022 calling for age pensioners to be allowed to work without losing their pension. It would like to see a targeted income test exemption for people with limited savings.
Currently, the body said many pensioners have limited savings and would benefit from a few more years of work to give them more income and top up their savings. But current rules mean a pensioner can only earn up to $240 per week before they lose the pension by 50 cents in the dollar, restricting how much they can work in the week. Also, if they earn more than $33,000 per year (including pension money), they get taxed.
"Between the loss of pension, taxes and the Centrelink reporting, many pensioners simply don't bother working. It's part of the reason why our workforce participation rate for pensioners is so low," the body said.
A May 2023 report by Australian HR Institute and the Australian Human Rights Commission found one in six organisations would not consider hiring anyone aged 65 and over.
Just over half (56 per cent) of HR professionals said they were open to recruiting people aged 50-64 to 'a large extent' while 18 per cent said either that they would be open to recruiting from the same age cohort 'to a small extent' or 'not at all'.
Institute chief executive officer McCann-Bartlett said the attitudes were disappointing and organisations did themselves a disservice by not considering older workers - particularly at a time when Australia is experiencing historically high levels of job vacancies.
"ABS data shows there were 439,000 vacancies in February 2023 which is almost double the vacancies pre-pandemic, while two-thirds of HR professionals we surveyed say they are currently experiencing recruitment difficulties.
"Our results show employment of older workers could help ease these shortages as there are too many workplaces where older workers are not being utilised to their full potential".
The report found that the reluctance by some HR professionals to recruit older workers contradicted the lived experience of employing them, with many reporting no difference between older and younger workers in terms of job performance, concentration, ability to adapt to change, energy levels and creativity.
Respondents also recognised the advantages of older workers when it came to coping with stress, attendance, reliability, awareness, commitment and loyalty, while others highlighted younger workers' physical capability, ambition and proficiency in using technology as positive attributes.
The government's Money Smart website has several suggestions about how to make your money in retirement last longer and still live well. Tips include accessing some super while working, claiming seniors' concession cards, and downsizing your dwelling or renting out a room.
- Note: Due to data availability, Census data analysed was taken at different months in each year sampled, and in some instances was an estimate.
Need to talk?
- Centrelink Financial Information Service: 13 63 57
- Elder abuse phone line: 1800 353 374