HelpAge International’s latest report

Australia has ranked inside the top 15 countries in the world for supporting older people’s quality of life but is significantly trailing other countries when it comes to combating old age poverty.

Australia ranked 13th out of 96 countries in the Global AgeWatch Index compiled by HelpAge International but performed poorly against others in the area of income security, ranking 61.

According to the index, Australia has the highest old age poverty rate (35.5 per cent) in its region, which includes countries in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.

Australia also scored below average on pension coverage and welfare rates.

CEO of COTA Victoria Sue Hendy said nearly a third of people who are long-term unemployed and on the Newstart Allowance are over 55. “Many of them face poverty, unable to find employment and unable to get the pension until they are 65,” she said.

Ms Hendy said access to appropriate housing was another issue facing older Australians and contributed to homelessness in old age. “There’s been a decline in social and public housing over the last decade and there’s an increase in the number of aged pensioners forced into poverty and homelessness because of rising rents in the private sector.”

Chief executive of COTA Australia Ian Yates said the release of the global rankings should be a “wake up call” to the Australian Government, especially on their proposals for the age pension.

“While it is pleasing to see we rate well on health and employment, the income security of Australia’s older people is comparable to that of Thailand (58th), Ecuador (56th) and Bolivia (55th),” he said.

“We will slide even further down the scale if the Abbott Government continues the push to make Australian pensioners the oldest in the world and cut the pension rate through changes to indexation,” Mr Yates said.

Coinciding with the International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, the Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries based on four domains – income security, health status, employment and education, and enabling environments for an ageing population.

The highest performing area for Australia was in the proportion of people over 60 with secondary or higher education, placing Australia’s educational attainment rate among the best in the world.

Australia also ranked 5th in the world for life expectancy and relative psychological wellbeing.

Overall, Australia improved its ranking compared to last year’s inaugural report, which placed Australia 14th out of 91 countries.

In the 2014 global index, Norway replaced Sweden as the top ranking country and Afghanistan rated the worst for protecting the social and economic wellbeing of older people.

Toby Porter, chief executive of HelpAge International said the index showed that economic growth alone would not improve older people’s wellbeing and specific policies needed to be put in place to address the implications of ageing.

The report found that pension coverage had increased across the globe but overall social and economic policies were failing to keep pace with changing demographics.

Global rankings of 96 countries. CLICK HERE TO ENLARGE

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