The Intergenerational Report: an innocuous name but a loaded document. The report handed down by the Federal Government today paints a picture of a future where we live longer, work for longer and cost a lot more to keep alive.
Asking the big questions
The report is designed to inform policy development, however it has another important function: to frame the public conversation about those policies.
In his press conference today,Treasurer Joe Hockey said he wants this document to begin a conversation with Australians about our future. He wants it to be talked about at barbecues, and there’s a good chance it will be.
Well, perhaps it won’t be referred to directly, but it touches on issues that affect every one of us:
– How long I will have to keep working? (Longer than we do now)
– How competitive will the demand for aged care be? (Very competitive)
– When will I get a tax cut? (No time soon)
– How much will my children’s education cost? (Quite a lot)
– How much will my healthcare cost? (Much more)
– How big will our population be? (Almost double what it is today)
Some of the key projections are that by 2055, there will be 39.7 million people living in Australia, and 40,000 of those people will be 100 years old or more.
For every person aged over 65 years old, there will be 2.7 working-age Australians.
While workforce participation is expected to fall due to older people leaving the workforce, seven in ten women will be in paid work. And the proportion of over-65’s still working will increase from 12.9 to 17.3 per cent.
The report also predicts that economic growth will slow from an average of 3.1 per cent average of the past 40 years to 2.8 per cent over the next four decades. In that time, the average annual income will rise from $66,400 today to $117,300.
Those are some of the headline figures, and the government itself suggests they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Mr Hockey admits that “all projections are inherently uncertain”.
The Greens would go much further than this, however: its leader Christine Milne called the report an “appalling document” because it fails to sufficiently take into account the economic risks of climate change.
The Opposition was no more complimentary than the Greens. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said the report was politically motivated, pointing out that “eight pages focus on the future and 80 pages focus on the past”.
Mr Bowen also noted that the report projects a return to budget surplus in 2028-29, and not – as Tony Abbott has previously promised – in the next decade.
Shaping the future
While you can disagree with the details, you can’t disagree with the trends.
We are living longer than ever before; health costs are increasing at a rapid rate; our population is ageing.
All of these factors will affect the way we allocate public funds, think about and save for our retirement, and invest in our own and our kids’ education. They are big issues that we need to wrestle with.
There’s no doubt the political fur will continue to fly in the coming weeks and months – and so it should. After all, the purpose of the Intergenerational Report is to help to shape Australia’s understanding of who we are and where we are going as a nation.
By Belinda White, Senior Account Director, Corporate & Public Affairs email@example.com /