Purpose of payment/benefit
The Age Pension is designed to support the basic living standards of older Australians. It is paid to people who meet age and residency requirements. It is targeted through the means test to those who need it most. Pension rates are indexed to ensure they keep pace with Australian price and wage increases.
Most Age Pension payments are made by Services Australia (Centrelink). Age pensioners who also receive certain compensation payments from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) can choose to have their Age Pension paid by either DVA or Services Australia.
The pension age is being gradually increased from 65 to 67 years as set out in the table below.
|Period within which a person was born
|Date pension age changes
|From 1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953
|65 years and 6 months
|1 July 2017
|From 1 January 1954 to 30 June 1955
|1 July 2019
|From 1 July 1955 to 31 December 1956
|66 years and 6 months
|1 July 2021
|From 1 January 1957 onwards
|1 July 2023
To qualify for the Age Pension, a person must be:
- an Australian resident (that is, living in Australia on a permanent basis) and
- in Australia on the day the claim is lodged.
They must also satisfy one of the following:
- be an Australian resident for a total of at least 10 years, with at least 5 of these years in one period
- have a qualifying residence exemption
- be a woman who is widowed in Australia when both she and her late partner were Australian residents, and who has 104 weeks residence immediately before the claim
- be receiving Widow B Pension, Widow Allowance or Partner Allowance immediately before reaching pension age.
Special rules apply to residence in countries with which Australia has an International Social Security Agreement. Residence in these countries may count towards the minimum 10-year residence requirement.
The Age Pension is subject to an income test and an assets test. Pensioners are paid under the test that produces the lower rate of payment.
The pension income test is designed to encourage people to supplement their income support payments with other income, if they are able to. A pensioner can receive an amount of income before their pension starts to be reduced. This amount may comprise income from investments, earnings, or a combination of income from various sources and is known as the income free area.
For each dollar of income over the income free area, the single pension is reduced by 50 cents. For couples, their combined pensions are reduced by 50 cents. This means that for a pensioner couple, their individual pensions are reduced by 25 cents a fortnight for each dollar of income that the couple has over the income free area. To learn more about the pension income test, see the Services Australia website.
The pension assets test is designed so that people with substantial assets use their assets (either directly or to produce income) to meet their day-to-day living expenses before calling on the social security system for support.
An asset is any property or possession that a person owns, with the exception of exempt assets. Where a person's rate of pension is worked out under the assets test, the value of their assets above the assets free area reduces their pension by $3 a fortnight for each extra $1,000 in assets.
To learn more about the pension assets test, see the Services Australia website.
The social security system uses deeming to assess income from financial investments. Deeming rules provide a simple and fair way to assess income from financial investments for social security and DVA pension and allowance purposes. On 1 January 2015, the deeming rules were extended to include account-based income streams. To learn more about deeming and these changes see the Services Australia website.
The Work Bonus provides an incentive for pensioners over Age Pension age to work, should they choose to do so, by allowing them to keep more of their pension when they have income from working. Under the Work Bonus, the first $300 of fortnightly income from work is not assessed as income under the pension income test. Any unused amount of the fortnightly $300 Work Bonus will accumulate in a Work Bonus income bank, up to a maximum amount of $7,800.
The amount accumulated in the income bank can be used to offset future income from work that would otherwise be assessable under the pension income test.
The income bank amount is not time limited; if unused it carries forward, even across years.
For more information go to the Work Bonus factsheet.
For more information about working after pension age, see the Working after pension age.
Pensions are indexed twice a year, on 20 March and 20 September. This reflects changes in pensioners’ costs of living and wage increases.
Base pension rates are indexed to the higher of the increase in the Consumer Price Index and the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index. These measure changes in prices on a range of goods and services such as:
- health care
- housing costs
- utilities costs.
Following indexation to price increases, rates are compared to a wages benchmark, and increased to meet the benchmark if necessary. The wages benchmark ensures the couple combined rate of pension is at least 41.76% of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings.
The single rate of pension is 66.33% of the couple combined rate.
For current Age Pension rates, see the Services Australia website.
For further information about the Age Pension, see the Services Australia website or phone 13 2300.
If you are a veteran, see the Department of Veterans' Affairs website or phone 13 2300.