Australia’s financial future in five graphs

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They are the five graphs that tell the story of Australia’s present – and its future. From how long we will live to whether climate change will make it too hot to work outdoors, the graphs feature in the just-released intergenerational report.

The report itself is close to 300 pages long, explaining how changes in our population, workplaces and society will shape the economy and federal budget over the coming 40 years.

Here are the five most important takeaways.

The intergenerational report delivered an insight into Australia’s future over the next 40 years.Credit: Getty Images

Life expectancy

Australians are already among the most long-lived in the world. The intergenerational report suggests that will continue to improve, even after the COVID-era dip that lopped several months off the life expectancy of men and women.

A boy or girl born in 2022-23 can expect, on average, to live long enough to celebrate the advent of the 22nd century.

The report forecasts that by 2062-63, a boy born that year will live, on average, a record 87 years. A baby girl can expect 89.5 years.

Old-age dependency

Older Australians will be financially supported by a smaller proportion of working-age people.

The old-age dependency ratio measures the proportion of people over the age of 65 relative to those aged between 15 and 65. It gives an insight into the actual number of taxpayers compared to those who will draw on tax-funded services such as health and aged care.

As the report notes, Australia (like most Western nations) benefited from the large Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and the mid-1960s. Lots of workers, who didn’t make a huge call on the public purse, paid lots of tax.

But the Boomers, who started retiring in the 2010s, now need increasingly expensive government-supplied services.

The old-age dependency ratio surged last decade into this one to 26.6 per 100 working-age people. It is expected to slow a little, but will start picking up again in the 2040s as Gen Xers begin leaving the workforce.

By 2062-63, when Millennials start to retire, the old-age dependency rate will be at 38.8 per 100 working-age people. It will be up to Gen Zs to work out how to care for Millennials.

Home ownership

For the first time, an intergenerational report has touched on the issue of home ownership. And the results, as anyone under the age of 40 knows, are confronting.

As prices have gone up, and mortgages have grown, people take longer to own a home. As the graph shows, among people in their late 20s, the proportion of home owners has dropped by 17 percentage points since 1981.

Starting to buy a home later increases the chances of taking a mortgage into retirement. For those unable to buy a home, it also means a longer period on the rental rollercoaster.

The report makes clear that if this trend continues, the nation’s key financial support systems for older Australians will start to fray.

“These trends present a fiscal risk to age pension spending in the future and may impact patterns of how superannuation is drawn down,” it warned.

Climate change impact on worker productivity

The report finds climate change could wipe between $135 billion and $423 billion from labour productivity over the next 40 years. This is actually the value of our day-to-day work, and doesn’t include things like increased spending on natural disasters or reduced wheat crops.

The graph shows the amount of work carried out by Australians that will drop as temperatures go up. The fewer ways the globe’s governments find to limit climate change, the bigger the hit to our ability to work.

People who have to work outside – such as labourers or machine operators – will be worst affected. This year in southern parts of the United States, we’ve already seen this type of impact.

Government spending per person

This year’s federal budget contains a mind-boggling $680 billion in spending.

The intergenerational report tries to make that number a little more comprehensible, breaking it down into spending per person. In the just-completed financial year, the government spent $23,808 for every person in the country.

By 2062-63, in inflation-adjusted dollars, it will have climbed to $40,162.

Spending is running a little faster than expected in the past two intergenerational reports, but slower than former treasurer Peter Costello feared in his two reports, the first in the series.

The single largest expense is health. Per person, it is tipped to more than double to $8677 in 40 years’ time. As a share of total spending, it will climb from 16.8 per cent today to more than 21 per cent.

Aged care will be the next largest drag on spending, reaching 8.7 per cent of all expenditure from its current level of 4.5 per cent. Defence won’t be far behind, at 8.1 per cent, followed by the National Disability Insurance Scheme at 7.2 per cent.

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