Perspectives on Australian Retirement Incomes



With important developments over the past two decades in Australian retirement income policy, projected future outcomes—for the public purse, for the national economy and for the future retired—have received considerable attention. This focus on the future should not, however, cause us to lose sight of the present. While the major changes in retirement income policy outcomes will not occur for some decades, the picture for current and recent cohorts of retired people is not static. This article begins with an account of the important policy developments since the 1980s in the Australian retirement income arena—the Australian retirement income system still differs radically from that in most other countries, in relying heavily on a means-tested income maintenance system, rather than on social insurance. The outcomes for current and recent cohorts of retired people are then examined from two perspectives. The first perspective is an examination of the incomes of the aged in the mid 1990s and of trends over the 1980s and 1990s—including consideration of changes in the level, composition and distribution of aged incomes. The second perspective is an international comparison of the incomes of the aged.