In late March 2020, the Australian Government introduced short-term policy measures to protect those whose income was adversely affected by the restrictions associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in large increases in the number of income support recipients overall, it does not appear to have had a large impact on those receiving the Age Pension.
In the 12 months to March 2021, the number of Age Pension recipients increased by 2.4% (an additional 61,600 recipients), consistent with increases seen in previous years (for example, an increase of 46,200 recipients in the 12 months to March 2019).
The proportion of Age Pension recipients receiving a part-rate payment fell even faster between March 2020 and March 2021 (from 36% to 32% of recipients) compared with previous years (from 41% to 38% between March 2015 and 2019). This suggests that COVID-related labour market conditions may have had an impact on earnings from employment for Age Pension recipients.
For more information on the impact of the COVID-19 on income support payments, see ‘Chapter 4 The impacts of COVID-19 on employment and income support in Australia’ in Australia’s welfare 2021: data insights.
Age and sex
As at March 2021, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over who received Age Pension increased with age, up to age group 80–84—38% for those aged 65–69 to 82% for those aged 80–84—and then declined to 77% for those aged 85 and over (Figure 2).
Between 2018 and 2020, the number of Age Pension recipients aged 65–69 declined by 9.5%, which may reflect recipients remaining on other payments for longer (such as disability and unemployment-related payments) as the qualifying age for Age Pension continues to increase. In contrast, the number of recipients aged 80 and over has increased by 8.4% between 2018 and 2020, largely reflecting the growth in the 80 and over population (6.7% increase) over this period.
As at March 2021, women were more likely to receive Age Pension than men—1.4 million (64% of women aged 65 and over) compared with 1.2 million (59%) men (Figure 2).
As at March 2021, 24,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – or 56% of the Indigenous population aged 65 and over – received Age Pension.
Note that Indigenous identification in most Centrelink and population data is voluntary. This may influence the quality and completeness of the data and subsequent reporting on the number and proportion of Indigenous Australians receiving Age Pension.
As at March 2021, people living in Inner regional and Outer regional areas were more likely to be receiving Age Pension (68% and 65%, respectively, of the population aged 65 years and over living in these areas) than those living in Major cities (60%), Remote (59%) or Very remote areas (54%) (Figure 2).