Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Age Pension, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 25 May 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Age Pension. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/age-pension
Age Pension. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/age-pension
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Age Pension [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 May. 25]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/age-pension
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Age Pension, viewed 25 May 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/age-pension
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Australia’s social security system, administered by the Department of Social Services, aims to support people who cannot, or cannot fully, support themselves, by providing targeted payments and assistance. When this payment is a person’s primary source of income, it is called an ‘income support payment’, which is a specific category of social security payments (see Income and income support).
Government pensions and allowances were the most common main source of income for the 3.9 million retirees in Australia in 2018–19 aged 45 and over (49% for men; 44% for women), followed by superannuation (30% for men; 17% for women). The average age of retirement was 55.4 years in 2018–19 (ABS 2020).
Age Pension is the most common income support payment available for people aged 65 and over (referred to as older Australians). It is paid to people who meet certain requirements, such as age and residency, and is subject to income and asset testing. Several policy changes have been made to the Age Pension over the last 5 years, including an incremental increase in the qualifying age (from age 65.5 in 2017 to 67 in 2023) and a rebalancing of the assets test from 1 January 2017 (DSS 2021). For more information on this payment see Age Pension and Age Pension – payment rates.
This page presents information on the people receiving Age Pension.
As at 26 March 2021, around 2.6 million people received Age Pension, equating to over 3 in 5 (62%) of the population aged 65 and over.
While this page focuses on Age Pension recipients, a small proportion of older people aged 65 and over received other income support payments:
Between 2018 and 2021, the number of older people receiving the Disability Support Payment increased by 35% and recipients of Jobseeker/Newstart Allowance Payment tripled, as the qualifying age for the Age Pension continues to rise. For more information on these other income support payments, see Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment and Unemployment and parenting income support payments.
The number of Age Pension recipients increased overall by 45% over the last 2 decades – from 1.8 million to almost 2.6 million between June 2001 and June 2021 (Figure 1). The slight dip in 2017 reflects changes to the Age Pension assets test from January 2017. However, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over receiving Age Pension has declined over this period – from 74% in 2001 to 66% in 2017, and then to 62% by June 2021. This declining proportion reflects that the growth in the aged population has been steeper than the increase in Age Pension recipients over this period (73% compared with 48% increase, respectively).
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.
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).
Means-tested arrangements are designed to ensure that income support targets those most in need, and that it reduces as recipients are more capable of providing for themselves. Recipients can earn a certain amount per fortnight before their payment is slowly reduced to a part-rate payment. Income support recipients are required to report income from all sources (including work, investments and/or substantial assets).
As at March 2021, for Age Pension recipients:
Over the 5 years to March 2021, the proportion of recipients receiving a part-rate Age Pension payment has fallen. The rate of decline has been steeper since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This decline over the last 5 years is partly attributable to the January 2017 measure to rebalance the assets test, which increased the assets test free areas and changed the rate at which assets over the free area reduce the rate of pension – thereby changing the proportion of part-rate pensioners. The number of those declaring earnings also dropped over the last year; in December 2020, it was at its lowest proportion (3.4%) since 2014.
For more information on Centrelink payments and data, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2020. Retirement and retirement intentions, Australia. ABS: Canberra. Viewed 1 July 2021.
DSS (Department of Social Services) 2021. Social Security Guide: qualification for age. DSS: Canberra. Viewed April 2021.
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