Older workers could fill skills gaps, but the price of pensions is too high

My dearest friend, Julie, and I have always wanted to take a trip to Scotland, but work, family and life kept getting in the way. Now we both have some time, but Julie canceled the trip. When I asked why, she replied, “I can’t afford it, and if I earn more, I’ll lose my pension.

It’s a choir heard across the country.

Older workers are deterred from working by inflexible pension rules.Credit:Robert Rough

Julie has paid taxes all her working life. Since retiring, she has supplemented her meager retirement income by teaching swimming.

She could do more – a lot more – but she deliberately puts in just enough hours to avoid being penalized financially. She reports her earnings to Centrelink fortnightly.

Australian pensioners can earn up to $300 a fortnight or $7,800 a year without affecting their entitlements. If they earn more, they receive lower pensions.

Senior Australian of the Year Val Dempsey is a nurse who says she can only work one day a week. Otherwise, she also risks losing part of her pension.

How ridiculous is that, when we are so desperate for nurses to work around the clock to fight the pandemic?

Australia needs workers in sectors such as health, education, hospitality, agriculture, etc. So why not put our retirees back on the job market? Seems like common sense to me.

Why are we talking about bringing in workers from abroad, which will further burden our overstretched services, when we have a workforce here already ready and experienced, eager to work? New Zealand has been doing this for years.

Previous Chat of the Weekend: Free agent roadblocks are ready to burst
Next pension: Indian elderly wait for monthly pension to rise from Rs 300