Poor pensioners

As actress Bette Davis once said, "getting old is not for sissies". Just when you expect to be reaping the rewards of a life of hard work, there is a surprisingly good chance that you will, instead, be struggling just to get by. In the mid-2000s, an average of 13.3% of people over 65 were living in poverty in OECD countries. An astonishing 45% of Koreans of that age were income poor, as were more than one out of every five older persons in Australia, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Mexico and the US. In only eight countries was the income poverty rate 5% or less among their oldest citizens.

One of the reasons for these differences is the level at which old-age safety-net benefits are set. In Australia, for example, the full-age pension in 2005 was about AU$2,000 lower than the income poverty threshold for a single person. That gap is even greater in Ireland. In contrast, the basic pension in New Zealand in 2005 was NZ$16,000, much higher than the poverty threshold of NZ$13,040 for a single person.




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