Working beyond 65 - what's realistic? The influence of health on longer working lives

Deborah Schofield, Emily Callander, Simon Kelly, Rupendra Shrestha

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned ReportResearchpeer-review


Background and purpose: In Australia, as in many developed countries, significantly more people will retire in the near future1. Most of these people will rely on the government to provide them with financial support to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Extending the working life of people in Australia beyond the traditional age of retirement (65 years of age) has benefits for the individual and governments. The financial burden is reduced for governments and individuals can enjoy a higher standard of living and other benefits. A 2014 National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre (NSPAC) research report2 explores the relationship between health and remaining in the workforce past the age of 65 and the impact of health on the accumulation of wealth. Research methods: This report used personal, health and work statistics information from the 2010 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey3,4 for people aged between 65 and 74. Details related to the long-term health and employment from the 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC)5 were also used in this report. Responses to questions from the 2010 HILDA surveys provided information about individual and household wealth, including total household wealth, household financial assets (made up of bank accounts, superannuation, cash investments, equity investments, trust funds and life insurance), household non-financial assets (made up of home assets, other property assets, business assets, collectables and vehicles) and household debt. Descriptive analysis and regression models were used in the report. Key findings: Working with a chronic health condition: In 2010, there were 1.3 million people aged between 65 and 74. Of these, half (51%) had a chronic health condition and 16% were working. The proportion of people aged between 65 and 74 in full-time employment with chronic health conditions was similar for people without health conditions. But those with a chronic health condition were less likely to be employed than those without a chronic health condition. Findings show that people in this age group and in good health were almost twice as likely to be employed as those with a chronic health condition. Level of education did not influence the chances of employment. Of those with chronic health conditions, men aged between 65 and 69 were the most likely to be employed. The most common conditions in people aged between 65 and 74 were arthritis and related disorders, hypertension, back problems, diabetes and heart disease. A person with any of these conditions is more likely to be not working than someone without any chronic health conditions. Net worth, income and retirement: People with a chronic health condition are disproportionally financially disadvantaged when compared to those in good health. This occurs because of the costs of medical treatment for people and the potential to lose income because of an inability to work when unwell. Of those working with a chronic health condition, 80% were earning $500 or less per week, compared to 54% of those without a health condition (Figure 1). For those aged between 65 and 74 who have a health condition and are working for financial reasons, the amount they earn may not be enough to allow them to retire. However, the household net worth of people working was similar irrespective of whether they did or did not have a chronic health condition. Conclusion: The NSPAC report, What’s realistic? The influence of health on Australia’s older workers, quantifies the extent that people aged between 65 and 74 with a chronic health condition were less likely to be employed than those without a chronic health condition. Having a university qualification does not impact the ability of a person with an illness to find employment in these ages. The report also confirms that employed people with a health condition earn lower income than those without a health condition. This leads many employed people with a chronic health condition to believe that the income they earn is not enough to allow them to retire.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne VIC Australia
PublisherNational Seniors Productive Ageing Centre
Commissioning bodyNational Seniors Productive Ageing Centre
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780992378103
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

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