honour your father and mother?

More than one in four Australian seniors [65 and over] live in poverty on international measures [less than half of median household income]. This is the fourth highest old-age poverty rate in the OECD countries and more than double the OECD average.

OECD (2009), Pensions at a Glance 2009: Retirement-Income Systems in OECD Countries

Admittedly, the definition of poverty used here means there will always be someone under the poverty line, but it still gives me pause. As a community, our generosity to our elders clearly isn’t overflowing…


  1. I have no idea how good it is as a measure of poverty, but unlike some the definition used there doesn’t in a statistical sense require anyone to be below it. It might be quite helpful to compare pensions with that standard. Or are you getting at something else?

    1. Hi Jonathan – you are right. While there is always half the population below the median, the bottom half of the population could be tightly clustered just below the median so that there’s no-one on half the median income. In my experience, this is unlikely, but it is possible. My apologies for my sloppy statistical claim!

      The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that while average household income in 2005-6 was $644 per week, median income was lower at $562 per week (i.e. the distribution is skewed towards lower income households). About 10 per cent of all Australian households have incomes that are less than half of that (follow the link and see chart S4). Putting the ABS and OECD claims together, I think it’s fair to say older Australians are over represented in this group.

      My explorations on the Centrelink wesbite reveal that the maximum Age pension payment for a single person is $569.80 per fortnight (or 284.90 per week) or $475.90 for each person in a couple (i.e. 475.90 per week for the household assuming they live togther).

      If you’d like to dig further – feel free to post your research!

      My post was driven by a heart conviction – and one that remains after having done that little bit of exploring – that we (as a community) could probably do better to honour and care for our elders.

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