Australian seniors call on government to stop penalizing them for working

Australia’s labor shortage could be solved by a ready and willing ‘grey army’.

But experts said the pension system was punishing our older Australians who wanted to stay in the workforce.

Tony Andrew, 70, has worked since he was a teenager.

Tony Andrew, 70, has worked since he was a teenager. (A current affair)

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From engineering to building hot rods, he’s always been part of the workforce, but now, living off the pension, he’s struggling to stay afloat.

“It’s fine to sleep and laze around but, you know, you have to pay your bills and you have to have a reasonable life because I’m single,” Mr Andrew said.

Although he wants to work more days each week, Mr Andrew knows that if he does, his pension will be reduced.

Tony Andre. (A current affair)

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“I really wanted to keep working but we were penalized a certain amount so it was not feasible,” he said.

His retired colleague Maureen Andrew said A topical matter she felt like a ‘criminal’ when Centrelink contacted her about a job she took – filming a TV commercial – after going into retirement.

“A few years later I got this really nasty letter from Centrelink and I had no idea the pension and Centrelink were related,” Ms Andrew said.

Retired Maureen Andrew. (A current affair)

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“My nativity and my ignorance, it never crossed my mind.”

Ms Andrew has been working for decades and at a ‘young’ 72 she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“Wouldn’t we be better off changing the mindset of the general population, that Grandpa and Nanny are actually really capable people who could still give a lot to the community,” she said.

Currently, retirees who choose to work benefit from the Retiree Work Premium, allowing them to earn money before it affects their retirement rate.

However, advocates said the $7,800-a-year limit is too low because it only allows retirees to work one day a week before being heavily penalized.

Ian Henschke, National Seniors Advocate. (A current affair)

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National Senior Advocate Ian Henschke is campaigning for the federal government to exempt employment income from the income test for pensioners, like the New Zealand system.

“Right now it’s a huge deterrent to not working and it just doesn’t make economic sense…if you’re working more than one day a week and you’re losing 50 cents on the dollar,” Mr. Henschke said.

With a critical labor shortage in Australia, Mr Henschke believes allowing retirees to work more could be the solution to the problem.

“We could think of retirees as a standing gray army ready to spring into action and take those jobs,” he said.

“We have American presidents in their 60s, we have people like Sir David Attenborough in their 60s – who are still working.

Matthew Higgins is the creator of oldworkers.com.au, an online job board for mature workers. (A current affair)

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“The Queen is still working and yet in Australia we say that once you reach 66 and a half we will punish you if you decide to work more than one day a week.”

Matthew Higgins is the creator of oldworkers.com.au, an online job board for mature workers.

The inspiration for the business came after watching his father struggle to find a job at the age of 55.

“It was really devastating. It was kind of like he had been scrapped,” he said.

With the site now having 60,000 registered jobseekers, Mr Higgins said it was a no-brainer to allow retirees to work more without penalty.

“Governments just have to get on board. If they want to have 450,000 more workers in the workforce, they’re sitting there ready to go,” he said.

“They also provide a different perspective. When you have this mix of young people and middle-aged people and they throw in different ideas, it’s just perfect.”

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