John Key has ruled out a referendum on the pension age and says his refusal to budge on the issue is nothing to do with his promise to quit as prime minister if the age of eligibility is raised.
Pressure is growing on the National-led Government to raise Superannuation after the Financial Services Council warned the cost will ballon to 12 per cent of the national income by 2080, or $24 billion.
A Savings Survey by Horizon Research found almost 60 per cent believed New Zealand could not afford the scheme if the eligibility age remained at 65 and a separate 3 News-Reid Research poll released last night found 63 per cent thought the age should rise to 66 or 67 from 2020 or even earlier.
Many economists and the Government's support partner ACT say the age should rise, and fellow support partner United Future wants a flexible retirement age.
In 2008 Key said he'd "rather resign as prime minister" than change the age of eligibility.
This morning he said the Government had many other issues to deal with around growing the economy.
"So me coming out today and saying we are going to lift the pension from 2020 does absolutely nothing to the national accounts today or tomorrow or the next day or the next day," he told TV3's Firstline programme.
"Forget about any promises I've made, or otherwise, I wouldn't be raising it today."
Concerns about the ageing population or the increasing costs of Superannuation were not new.
"Yes, the cost goes up a bit but partly that's indexation. Our costs of the pension is relative to other countries still quite low."
Modelling done by the Government showed it was still affordable, he said.
Asked if the Government would consider holding a referendum on the issue, Key said: "No, not really."
"We had an election on it in the last campaign. Labour went into the election wanting to raise the age of Super... the voters rejected that."
Key said it was "always possible" he would reconsider his stance before the 2014 election but said it was not something the Government had discussed internally.
SUPER RISE BACKED
Almost 60 per cent of people questioned believe New Zealand cannot afford its current Super scheme if the age eligibilty stayed at 65.
A separate 3News Reid Research poll last night revealed 63 per cent believe the age should be pushed up to 66 or 67 from 2020 – or even earlier.
More than half in the 3News poll of 1000 voters said Key should break his promise not to raise the Super age.
Labour leader David Shearer wanted cross-party talks and a "nationwide discussion."
"It's not good enough for John Key to say that he's worried about governing for today and somehow the future will look after itself. As prime minister, he has a responsibility to look after future generations too."
ACT also called on National to reconsider. Leader John Banks said that, by 2016, NZ Super would make up nearly 55 per cent of total benefits paid by the Government.
"New Zealand's demographics are changing quickly ... By 2050 there will only be 2.5 people working to support every one retiree ... That's a large financial burden to be placed on so few people."
Research conducted by the savings and investment lobby group FSC shows New Zealanders are underprepared for old age. The average expected retirement age for women is 67.1 and for men 68.7.
Most of those questioned thought they would live, on average, to 83.5 years. But those aged between 18 to 24 believed they will still be around until 85.8.
However, 45 per cent agreed they are "not really planning for their retirement".
Almost a third said they didn't know how much they needed – and just 10 per cent thought a government pension would be enough to live on.
FSC chief executive Peter Neilson said most Kiwis accepted a shift was needed – particularly younger generations.
"It's quite clear that a number of young people do not believe that NZ Super will continue on the same arrangement," he said.
"They are pretty certain that it won't be available either at the same time or the same rate it currently is and they are saying we probably have to do something about it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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