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Seniors safer, less wealthy here than overseas

Australia lags behind many Western European and other countries in income security for seniors.

The information comes from HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index, which ranks 96 countries according to the wellbeing of older people.

Australia’s pension coverage amongst people age 65 and over is 10 percentage points lower than the average for its group – 91 per cent. “The [Australian] poverty rate amongst older people – measured as share of older people living on less than 50 per cent of median country income/consumption – is 35 per cent,” a representative from HelpAge International said. “It is the highest in the group and is 26 percentage points higher than the [group] average.”

“The relative welfare of older people is 65 per cent. It means that average income/consumption of older people is 65 per cent of the average income/consumption of younger generations,” the spokesperson said.

Personal security was also an issue for older Australians, with only 58 per cent feeling safe walking home at night, compared with the relevant group average of 67 per cent.

Areas where Australia fared better included the capability domain, ranking second due to the high percentage of older people with secondary or tertiary education and an employment rate above the group average.

“Australia also ranks top in the health domain due to high life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at 60 (25 and 19, respectively) compared with the [group]’s average of 24 and 18 years, respectively,” the representative said. “The satisfaction of older people with civic freedom is among the highest in the [group] and is 8 percentage points above the [group] average.”

HelpAge pointed towards Norway and Canada as examples of best-performing countries.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global is amongst the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. “The revenues from Norway’s oil sector are channelled into the fund, and are invested globally to create revenue. “The fund is an international best practice of public revenue management and provides a high degree of economic security for the country’s social welfare system to benefit current and future generations of older people,” HelpAge wrote. “The Norwegian Ministry of Finance forecasts that the fund will reach 4.3 trillion NOK (US$826 billion) by the end of 2014.”

Canada, meanwhile, has more than 97 per cent pension income coverage. It was also found to be above the group average on the indicators of safety, civic freedom and social connectedness.

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