Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Supporting senior Australians and Santa this Christmas

Senior Australians are enjoying a Christmas bonus this year, thanks to the Australian Government’s improved Seniors Work Bonus.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin today met with one of the many seasonal Santas benefiting from the improved Work Bonus, at Warringal Shopping Centre in Melbourne.

At the moment around 80,000 age pensioners who are working part-time or seasonal jobs are better off because of the new Work Bonus.

Many senior Australians choose to undertake seasonal work at Christmas time, often working as Santas in shopping centres around the country.

The Australian Government’s improved Seniors Work Bonus allows these age pensioners to keep more of their fortnightly pension when they work.

Under the new, improved Work Bonus introduced on 1 July this year, age pensioners are able to earn up to $250 a fortnight from employment without it being considered income under the pension income test.

In addition, any unused amount of the fortnightly $250 Work Bonus will accumulate in an employment ‘income bank’, up to a maximum of $6,500. Credit in the ‘income bank’ can then be carried forward to future years and be used to offset employment income that would otherwise be taken into account under the pension income test.

This means that age pensioners can earn up to $6,500 each year, without it affecting their pension.

Senior Australians make important contributions to our communities and our economy. This is why the Government is delivering on initiatives encouraging participation and involvement in community life.

Since the Government’s major pension reforms in September 2009, the average rate of new age pension recipients with employment income has grown by 25 per cent.

The new Work Bonus delivers on an election commitment to allow age pensioners who work to earn more before their pension is affected. This encourages senior Australians to continue contributing their skills and knowledge by remaining in the workforce.

The new Work Bonus is a win for senior Australians, giving them more incentive to work if they choose; it is a win for business, which will find it easier to tap into the skills of older workers; and it is a win for the Australian economy.

The new Work Bonus is on top of the significant increases to the pension the Australian Government has delivered as part of its major pension reforms since September 2009. Currently a single pensioner on the maximum rate is $148 per fortnight better off than they were before the reforms. Pensioner Couples on the maximum rate are $146 better off per fortnight, combined.

In addition, mature age workers (aged 50 years and over) with trade skills but no formal qualifications can have their skills assessed and formally recognised to attain a qualification at Certificate III level or above through the More Help for Mature Age Workers initiative.

The Gillard Government is investing $30 million over three years in this initiative, which will help improve productivity and address skills shortages.