Cbus is to undertake an examination into the potential impacts on its members of shifting the pension age to 70.
The fund has 700,000 members in the building, construction and allied industries, many of whom find it hard to continue manual work until their sixties.
David Atkin, chief executive of the $22bn fund, said that many used superannuation as a lump sum to tie them over until pension age and he wanted the government to consider such workers before it changed the law, as is being suggested by the treasurer Joe Hockey.
“Cbus is aware anecdotally of many blue collar workers in the construction industry who find themselves ‘broken’ after long years of highly demanding physical work long before they reach 65 years of age, let alone 70 years of age,” he said.
“It is also the case that construction tends to be a younger persons’ game, with younger workers tending to be favoured against older ones. Transition to lighter or alternative duties is not always available to these workers.”
Cbus is to seek to understand how the income safety net will work to address the increased pension age and what proposals for industry adjustment and/or re-training assistance underpin such a decision.
“While the industry deserves credit for adoption of technology and work practices that have removed some manual handling jobs, more will have to be done on this front and on health and safety to prolong work spans,” said Atkin.
Speaking at an Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees luncheon in Sydney, Phil Ruthven, the found and chairman of IBISWorld predicted that one way in which the public would cope with higher retirement ages was through part-time work, not least because the proportion of those in part-time jobs in the economy had increased steadily since 1960 to around 15 per cent of the population and would continue to increase.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has proposed a tightening in pension access for people with over a million dollars in assets in addition to the family home as an alternative to raising the pension age.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of ACOSS, also called for a reform of superannuation tax concessions to reduce the proportion of tax breaks going to those on the highest incomes. These changes, she said, would give the government enough savings to keep the retirement age at its proposed current peak of 67 in 2023-24.