Dickens: Rather than shut out immigrants, let's raise the pension age

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 12:28PM
It's time to have a superannuation debate rather than an immigration one, writes Andrew. (Photo / Getty)

Why are we giving immigrants superannuation, asked a nationally broadcast current affairs host who should know better this morning.

Well, Mr Populism, preying on people’s basic instincts, it’s because they’re New Zealand citizens or residents.  But obviously in his eyes there two types of New Zealanders: the ones he thinks deserve to be here and the ones he thinks don’t deserve to be here, even if they’re totally legal. This is the worst dog whistle broadcasting and it’s also the worst dog whistle politics.

Honestly, if you don’t like older immigrants who qualify getting the super, then don’t let them in in the first place. This is an immigration debate, not a superannuation debate.  If we’re going to have a superannuation debate, then let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

NZ Super is a universal social welfare benefit paid to older New Zealand Citizens and Residents. Universal. It has been since the day it started.  $800 a fortnight for a single and $1300 for a couple.

It has nothing to do with how much tax you’ve paid before you turn 65. If it was then the people who paid the most tax would get back more super than the ones who paid less tax, further exacerbating the divide between rich and poor.

The taxpayers of today pay a universal benefit to ensure the older generation does not starve or freeze. Which is why it gets difficult when the proportion of taxpayers reduce and the number of pensioners increase, which is exactly what is happening now with the baby boomers hitting retirement age.

To combat that problem, some countries started to raise the age of the pension to 67. It also takes into account that we live longer these days. 

But in New Zealand, we refuse to countenance this. It was John Key who drew the line in the sand and said he’d never raise the age. All while allowing hundreds of thousands of immigrants into the country, many close to pension age, ironically putting even more pressure on his stand.

It’s only been two years but it’s turned into political poison. Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to 65 before the election.  In 2017, PM Bill English said the age would start to slowly rise. In 20 years time. Or 2037. Or when the baby boom bulge is starting to peter out. That was a policy that was not really a policy.  A stand that was not a stand.

No party will come out and say let’s raise the age now even when the argument makes perfect sense. Because New Zealanders are too married to their own entitlements no matter how hard it becomes for the entire system. They say millennials are entitled but there’s nobody more entitled than someone who’s within coo-eee of the super.

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