Christopher Luxon stands by policy of increasing superannuation age despite report saying it will disadvantage Māori, Pasifika

National's Christopher Luxon continues to propose lifting the superannuation age to 67 despite a report from the Retirement Commission recommending the age of eligibility remain the same.

When asked if he stood by the policy, despite the report finding an increase would disadvantage women, Māori and Pacific peoples, Luxon said: "I think it is the right thing to do."

The National Party policy remains unchanged from what former Prime Minister Sir Bill English announced in 2017, that the age of eligibility would be phased from 65 to 67 starting on July 1, 2037. That was to reflect increasing life expectancies and the rising cost of the scheme.

"Our policy is the same one we had with Bill English in 2017, which is we believe in a very slow, staged increase to 67," the National leader said. "It would kick in in 2037. People would have plenty of time and plenty of notice to accommodate for that."

"Every 10 years life expectancy is improving by over a year-and-a-bit, so it makes sense when other jurisdictions around the world already have 67 entrenched as their retirement age, we see a rising life expectancy, and also we have a very staged, slow response to actually increasing it slowly."

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightston released a report on Tuesday morning recommending the age of eligibility for superannuation "must remain the same" or "a more complicated system be considered to reduce the inevitable inequity such a change would bring". 

"Any increase to the age of people accessing NZ Super will only further disadvantage women, Māori, and Pacific people," Wrightson said.

Māori and Pacific peoples are expected to become a larger proportion of the working-age population over the next two decades, the report said, but will remain a "small proportion" of those who eventually get superannuation due to shorter life expectancies. 

"The current situation is that some Māori and Pacific people are, in effect, contributing to a policy that they are less likely to benefit from in the future," the report said.  

Luxon was asked if another system should be developed to ensure those people are supported. He didn't directly answer the question. 

"What we just need to say is our view is very simple. We need to move it from 65 to 67. We need to do it in a very methodical, slow, but purposeful kind of way so people have plenty of time to adjust."

The report found 40 percent of those aged 65 and over have virtually no other incomes besides NZ Super, while a further 20 percent have just NZ Super and a little more. 

"Even with NZ Super, close to one in three people don't think they will have enough for retirement unless they continue working past 65."

One of the arguments behind increasing the superannuation age is its increasing cost. 

An OECD report earlier this year warned that rising cost would become unsustainable and recommended raising the eligibility age.

Treasury forecasts from 2021 found net expenditure on NZ Super will increase from 5 percent of GDP in 2020/21 to 7.7 percent of GDP in 2060/61. This is a result of the percentage of the population aged over 65 being expected to rise from 16 percent in 2020 to 26 percent in 2060. 

However, the Retirement Commission cautioned this should be seen against the backdrop of NZ Super being the primary Government support for quarter of the population.

"It seems reasonable expenditure for a large percentage of the population, particularly in light of the economic contribution that the over 65s continue to make."

The report found those aged over 65 contribute more financially than the entire amount of expenditure on benefits.