Assessing Age Pension Options: Public Opinion in Australia 1994 - 2001 with Comparisons to Finland and Poland

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 21/04

Date: September 2004


M. D. R. Evans
Jonathan Kelley


This working paper assesses Australians' views on alternative old age pension systems. We find that a no-pension system is very unpopular (28 points out of 100, on average), and a universal pension system fairly popular (62 points, on average), with other systems in between. The current catchment of the current system was not asked about directly in the existing data, but forecasts of its likely rating, based on interpolation between the ratings of the other systems suggest that it would draw ratings of around 55, on average. The existing data do not include any variations in age at access, which ought to be inquired about in future research, because varying that might accommodate goals of containing or reducing spending with public preference for widespread access. Our temporal analysis found no trends between 1993 and 2000 in ratings of any of the alternative pension systems, so the universal age pension still remains the most popular option. Our multivariate analysis found little sign of self-interest in attitudes towards old age income systems: age, occupation, income, and workforce participation do not have important influences on these attitudes, and the education and gender effects do not support a self-interest interpretation. Instead, attitudes towards old age income systems are linked to other political attitudes - to party preferences and to attitudes towards general consumer subsidies. Ideals about the provision of old age income appear to be strongly shaped by other aspects of political ideology, and only lightly touched by self-interest.

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