Look to super and property to see how Australian Millennials are falling behind

Concerns about the underfunded retirement of Australia’s next big generation are being put in the too-hard basket, but experts warn the problem will only get harder to fix with time.

The architect of Australia’s superannuation scheme, former-prime minister Paul Keating, told Four Corners on Monday the workforce had changed since the system was set in place almost 30 years ago, and expectations must change with it.

But with those workforce changes seeing young Australians delay superannuation contributions, and with home ownership rates falling among Australians, Millennials will have fewer options when they want to retire, according to the Grattan Institute.

Why superannuation has lost its way

Millions of young Australians may be falling through the cracks when it comes to their retirement savings, this week’s Four Corners report found.

While Australia’s superannuation pool sits at $2.5 trillion and growing, the rise of the gig economy and regular job swapping have become problematic for a superannuation system designed for full-time workers.

“The people least likely to be benefitting from super are the people least likely to be buying their own home.”John Daley – chief executive of the Grattan Institute

Callam Pickering, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Indeed, said young people in Australia had increasingly been locked out of full-time work since the GFC – a fact now impacting on super contributions.

“Gig workers” like Uber drivers, food deliverers and many freelancers operate as independent contractors, so the companies they represent often do not make superannuation contributions, which are supposed to represent 9.5 per cent of our wage.

“The reality for young people is they’re going to find it difficult to retire when they get to 65,”  Mr Pickering said.

Fewer homeowners: A compounding concern for Millennials when they retire

John Daley, chief executive of the Grattan Institute, agrees the problem is only going to get worse, but said it was not going to be solved by pouring money into the system.

“The people least likely to be benefiting from super are the people least likely to be buying their own home,” Mr Daley told Domain.

He said the reason that’s a problem is that 30-40 years ago these very same Australians were able to afford a home – a key asset in retirement.

A recent Grattan study showed ownership rates among 25-34-year-olds has fallen from 60 to 45 per cent since 1981, pointing the finger at rising house prices.

But Mr Daley said the issue of home ownership would grow to be even more an issue as migration pushed up the numbers of middle-aged Australians, some of whom would enter retirement not owning their own home.

Open homes:

Longer life expectancy means much later retirement

Paul Keating admitted the system he set in place in 1992 had not kept pace with Australia’s rapidly growing life expectancy.

“I designed a system for people who retired at 60 and died at 82 or 83,” he said on ABC’s Four Corners on Monday night.

“You can’t start seriously saving at 30 and stop work at 65 and expect those 30 years of savings to last you the next 30 years.”

Open homes:

Meanwhile, The Demographics Group director of research, Simon Kuestenmacher, said Australia’s longer-living population was going to force us to rethink retirement, whether we want to or not, or else risk running out of money.

“If you still live in some sort of fantasy world where you want to retire at 65, and are very likely to live to 90, it means you must have savings for 25 years,” he said.

At the rate many young people are saving, their retirement prospects will appear when they’ve inherited their parents’ assets.

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