Meeting the changing needs of older people in terms of housing, support services and work arrangements is a significant challenge facing Australia.

Demographers, economists and policy makers are increasingly concerned about the ageing population and the increasing number of people aged over 45 who will start to transition into retirement over the next 20 years. In 2021, 39 percent of the labour force was aged over 45 years old, compared to 32 percent in 2001. Over the next 20 years, an increasing number of people will start to transition into retirement.

Age of retirement

In 2021, men aged 45 years old were expected to retire at age 65.2 and women were expected to retire almost one year earlier at 64.3 years old. Over the past 30 years the expected retirement age for women has increased by 3.5 years and 1.9 years for men.

Intergenerational reports prepared for the Commonwealthand State Governments highlight the challenges of an ageing population, including significant impacts on the labour force, consumption patterns, public finances and – in turn – economic growth.

Comparing the major Australian cities3, people in the larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne tend retire earlier than their counterparts in Brisbane Perth and Adelaide. This may be driven by the relative cost of living in Sydney and Melbourne, which encourages older people to shift out of the city as they age to a lower-cost regional area.

Important factors increasing the expected age of retirement:

  • A shift towards service-based jobs and away from more physically demanding jobs.
  • Overall increased labour force participation among women due range of policy measures that have helped women strengthen their links to the labour force during their 20s, 30s and early 40s. This includes paid paternity leave (for both men and women), access to affordable childcare / early childhood education and more broadly increased focus on gender equity within the society and in public policy.
  • Strong labour market conditions helping to retain older workers in jobs.
  • Changing social attitudes towards older workers.
  • Increasing trend towards part-time work amongst older workers.

Length of retirement

By combining life expectancy data with the expected age of retirement, an expected ‘length of retirement’ can be estimated. The length of retirement has implications for individuals as they manage their personal finances, the aged care sector4, and for the government in terms of transfer payments and healthcare costs.

Men have seen a significant increase in expected length of retirement – from 9.3 years in 1978 to 17.3 years in 2019. This has been driven by increases in life expectancy, while age of retirement has remained relatively steady between 63 and 65 years old. Women have seen a 3.5 year increase over the same period.

Based on analysis of an age of retirement dataset prepared by KPMG Australia, the paper considers a number of aspects including: the gender superannuation gap; the transition from full-time work; who retires first: city comparison; length of retirement; and retirement across the globe.

Key considerations highlighted in this report:

  • Implications of the length of retirement for both individuals’ personal finances and for government spending.
  • How an increasing age of retirement indicates that businesses will be able to access skilled labour for longer, although the data suggests that older workers would prefer to work part time.
  • The opportunity for both workers and businesses to come together to retain skilled workers and provide older people with income, social interaction and intellectual stimulation.
  • The move by older people away from the major cities into regional areas and the challenges and opportunities this presents.
  • The need to continue to maintain momentum on gender equity and what actions can be taken to address this.

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  1. 2021 Intergenerational Report: Australia over the next 40 years (PDF 6.2MB), Commonwealth of Australia, June 2021.
  2. 2021-22 NSW Intergenerational Report, NSW Government, 2021.
  3. Based on the Greater Capital City Statistical Area.
  4. Achieving customer-centricity in aged care, KPMG Australia.