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Saturday 08 April 2017

Grey Rights?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 20th March 2017

At present, new Prime Minister Bill English is signalling an intention to gradually raise the New Zealand minimum superannuation age from 65 to 67. However, this will happen gradually over the next twenty years. The National Party and ACT seem isolated on this issue. However, what is our stake on this issue?

Since 2005 and the Statutory References (Relationships) Act which accompanied the Civil Unions Act, which equalised entitlements and obligations insofar as same-sex relationships were concerned, lesbian and gay couples have been able to access equal entitlements under pension and superannuation legislation. This means that we are entitled to retire at equivalent pension payment levels to straight couples. However, there's also the vexed question of cumulative savings over the lifespan. Although no concrete data exists to specifically corroborate this, lesbian and gay lifespan savings may be related to a number of related biographical variables. Working class, Maori and Pacific Island LGBT fa'afafine, takatapui, whakawahine, faikaleite and other pensioners may have had arduous and physically exhausting working lives that mean that their retirement at 65 is probably welcome and necessary, although given the casualisation of work and anti-union legislation, they may not have been able to save as much for their retirement as their middle class managerial and professional counterparts. The Clark administration introduced a national Superannuation savers fund to offset this, but the Key and English administrations have shortchanged their contributions to the fund due to the excuse of the global economic crisis after 2008 and its immediate aftermath. Although the Retirement Commissioner, Treasury and other fiscal conservatives favour a gradual rise of the superannuation minimum age to 67, as does current Prime Minister Bill English, the proposal has met stormy responses from New Zealand First, Grey Power, Age Concern and centre-left parties like Labour and the Greens.

In the case of New Zealand First, Winston Peters has stated that his party will not vote for any such legislation. However, left unspoken is what would happen if New Zealand First makes it a coalition bottom line and National refuses to budge on the issue. Labour and National have reversed positions on this issue- Labour supported a superannuation rise at the 2014 New Zealand General Election, while then- Prime Minister John Key opposed any such rise. Since then, Andrew Little and Bill English have changed places on the issue. So, with that contextualisation concluded, what about us?

As I noted above, no-one has conducted detailed specific econometric analysis on LGBT retirement in our national context. With greater discretionary income and scarce strategic skills, there is likely to be a gendered, class and ethnicity-based dichotomy in our communities between pakeha/palagi professionally employed and managerial personnel who may have had the advantage of high wages and relatively continuous employment, although there may be anomalies relative to straight male counterparts- the latter receive preference in terms of recruitment, successful interview outcomes, performance appraisal standard accreditations, promotions and redundancies compared to others. Within LGBT communities, parental responsibilities are also likely to impact on the overall sum of retirement savings, given that LGBT parents have diminished disposal incomes due to the costs of education, child and adolescent healthcare, housing and food. So, would raising the retirement age provide greater opportunities to save for retirement? On the other hand, would delaying the retirement age be negatively perceived by Maori, Pacific Island and pakeha working class individuals due to the fact that fewer of them survive for long periods after retirement due to the health costs of institutional racism and economic inequality?

The best solution to the superannuation issue would be the restoration of the national superannuation fund to full levels of government investment and equivalent obligations placed on larger employers, as well as the cessation of casualised employment legislation, opportunities for inhouse professional development and reskilling that do not require redundancy to take place, and stabilisation of workplace employment continuity. With those in place, there will be no need to extend the minimum retirement and superannuation age to 67. Keep it at 65.


New Zealand First:

If older LGBT readers have specific pension and superannuation experiences to relate, could they please contact us so we can follow up with personal experiences in the context of this particular issue?

Craig Young - 20th March 2017

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