Politics

Australia’s pension system is world’s most sustainable, study finds

Melinda Oliver /

Australia’s retirement income system is the most sustainable of 50 countries, according to a new survey by Allianz.

The Allianz 2014 Pension Sustainability Index report found that Australia’s combination of a public and private retirement income made it the most sustainable, placing it ahead of Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The annual report examined key elements of each nation’s pension system, both public and private, and the developments that influence them. It also evaluated the pressure on governments to effect reform to improve the fiscal sustainability of their systems.

Australia’s two-tier system, with a lean public pension and highly developed funded pension, means it is under the least pressure to reform.

New Zealand was also found to have a sustainable pension system, as it is not aging as rapidly as many other countries, and its labour force tends to work beyond statutory retirement age.

The report found that Thailand has replaced Greece as the nation with the most need to reform its pension system. Thailand has an extremely low retirement age and sporadic pension coverage.

Brazil was ranked second lowest, due to its high replacement rate and low effective retirement.

Allianz found that, in addition to Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Romania, Singapore, Turkey and the US were able to move more than five places up in the rankings from the 2011 report. It found a combination of factors led to this improvement, including improved aging perspectives and improved economic development.

Countries that dropped in ranking included Croatia, France, Hong Kong, Malta, Slovenia and Taiwan.

Allianz general manager of corporate affairs Nicholas Scofield told SmartCompany that one of the reasons Australia’s pension was sustainable was that it paid 42% of the average wage, while other countries paid much higher portions of their country’s average wage and had been slow to implement private superannuation.

Schofield says that while the Australian system is sustainable, the report does not rank on generosity. In Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea, the portion of the average wage paid was closer to 60%, while in Spain it was more than 70% and in Italy it was 80%.

The findings of the survey appear to contradict perceptions that Australia’s superannuation system and pension is in need of urgent reform, and Scofield says it shows there is a lot Australia is doing well.

“Australia moved early on establishing a private contribution system … there are some countries that are still starting that journey,” he says.

He says that with superannuation contributions edging towards 12%, Australia’s pension sustainability should continue.

Allianz Australia managing director Niran Peiris said one area the report found concerning was that Australia’s superannuation system allowed people to give lump sum contributions.

“The report highlighted that allowing people to take all their superannuation savings as a lump sum to be used to repay home mortgages or other purposes risked leaving retirees with reduced incomes for their retirement,” he said.

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