Aging Australians are balking at world's oldest retirement age

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CANBERRA, Australia -- Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey wants to raise the nation's retirement age to 70, the highest in the world, to prevent an aging population from draining state coffers. Miner Noel Chatterton laughs at the idea.

"Good luck with that," said the driller, who at 48 will be among the vanguard of workers who would be affected by the proposed change. "My hands are already about stuffed. The way my body is, I'll be lucky to be able to work until I'm 60, let alone 70."

Mr. Hockey is part of the Liberal-National coalition that won power in September pledging to end what he called the nation's "Age of Entitlement" and repair a budget deficit forecast to reach $47 billion this fiscal year. Australia is leading the charge for a group of advanced economies from Japan to Germany that are pushing up the retirement age to head off a gray time bomb caused by a growing army of pensioners and a declining pool of taxpayers.

The ratio of working-age Australians to those over 65 in the world's 12th-largest economy is expected to decline to 3:1 by 2050 from 5:1 in 2010. In Japan, it's already below 3:1 and in Germany it's close to that level, according to the International Labor Organization.

"While Australia is the first to raise the age to 70, it won't be the last," said Steve Shepherd of international employment agency Randstad Group in Melbourne. "The world will be watching this."



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