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New study finds one in three retirees want to or have re-entered the workforce

National Seniors Australia, peak body for older Australians, has released research that found 20 percent of pensioners would consider returning to the workforce after retirement if Age Pension requirements were changed, and another 16 percent have already started working in their retirement.

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Older pensioners have a desire to work for more money, however, they won't while their pension is impacted when working more than a day a week. [Source: Shutterstock]

Of the nearly 4,000 older Australians surveyed, the main reasons that pensioners wanted to re-enter the workforce were to earn more money (60 percent), keep active (15 percent) and contribute to society (12 percent).

Already 60 percent of survey respondents said they had taken on paid work during their retirement at some point.

This research backs National Seniors’ 'Let Pensioners Work' campaign to stop the Age Pension system from "punishing" older people for wanting to work and the organisation is gunning for the Government to exempt employment income from the Age Pension income test.

Professor John McCallum, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of Research at National Seniors, says that older Australians are the missing link that could provide a "big shot in the arm" for the Australian economy and alleviate the current worker shortage across the country.

In the short term, Professor McCallum believes it could be a good option to allow older people to work in industries that need more workers, like aged care or agriculture, and show how this system could work really well in Australia.

"It seems to me very odd that there is no particularl interest in doing this, or even promising to look into it," says Professor McCallum.

"I think it's the rigidity some people have about the Age Pension, and what is a backward look on it.

"...We have got something we are looking backwards at and not looking forwards for the next 20 years of an ageing society, which continues to 2040, and not setting up the systems to really make it work and to benefit the economy, frankly.”

Currently, pensioners who work lose 50 cents of their pension for every dollar they earn over $480 a fortnight. This is similar to only being able to work one day a week without having their pension impacted.

Professor McCallum explains that the Age Pension is just seen as welfare and doesn't have the necessary flexibility that fits in with modern society.

"The blindness - we have a mindset about the pension, and that is just not how the world works anymore," he says.

The motivation to work for money was more prominent in the pensioner survey participants, 60 percent, than the non-pensioners, 46 percent.

Being able to work also provides quite strong wellbeing benefits and feelings of purpose to older men and women, adds Professor McCallum.

Even though National Seniors says they have a strong backing by businesses and the community to changing the Age Pension working requirements, the organisation was disappointed with the result of the Government’s Federal Budget for 2022/23, which omitted any mention of the campaign request.

While there was an increase to the Age Pension - an extra $10 a week for single households or $15 for couples in (insert month and year) - National Seniors believes the Age Pension doesn't meet the huge jump in the cost of living.

Whereas, giving pensioners an exemption on the Age Pension income test could very well provide older people with the financial boost they need to live comfortably.

Professor McCallum says that a change to the Age Pension requirements doesn't need to be complicated, it could be changed to allow for specific work in industries that are desperate for good workers.

"I think this survey is very important in respect to who the pension doesn't do the job for, even with the increases. We should at least allow [older people] the dignity to work and not literally force them out of it because they lose money doing it," says Professor McCallum.

"At least give them some dignity."

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