AUSTRALIA - Single pensioners are struggling to meet basic living costs, receiving less than those in other developed countries, a background paper for the Rudd government's Pension Review shows.
The Senate inquiry into cost of living pressures on older Australians found that people on the single rate of the pension who did not own their own house faced the most significant cost of living pressures.
The paper was produced by the secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Dr Jeff Harmer, as part of the government's wider inquiry into Australia's Future Tax System, chaired by the Secretary of Treasury, Dr Ken Henry.
The Pension Review was set up to investigate levels of income support and allowances, frequency of payments and the structure and payment of concessions or other entitlements for Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment recipients.
Around 4.6 million Australians receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian government in the form of a pension or allowance.
According to the background paper, more than two million older Australians, or almost 80% of the population aged over 65, now received a full or part Age Pension or related payment. But only a small proportion (around 13%) had no private income to supplement their pension payment.
Jenny Macklin, minister for families, housing, community services and indigenous affairs, said: "What this demonstrates to us is that it's very important that we get the maximum rate of income support at a level that enables people to have a reasonable standard of living. What it also says is for those who are under the retirement age, we need to get the system right to both encourage and support people to work where it is possible that they can.
"This is a very important review for the government, a very large number of Australians, older Australians, people with a disability, and those who are responsible for caring for many of our most frail, aged and disabled people need our help, and that's why we've decided to undertake this review."
Written submissions and national consultations will feed into the final review report, due no later than February 2009.
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