In 2003, background papers to the review of retirement income policy noted that comment was required on the issues faced by disabled people1 just as they were for the other groups facing low lifetime income. The terms of reference for the 2007 Review of Retirement Income Policy include disabled people in its scope. This focus has been welcomed by disabled people as many face an uncertain and impoverished old age and would welcome disability specific policy initiatives.
In the New Zealand population, an average of one in five has a disability, according to post census surveys2. Like other New Zealanders, disabled people aspire to a good life3 throughout the lifespan, including during old age. But for disabled people, the chances of a comfortable retirement income are considerably lowered. Disabled people have low personal incomes, are less likely to be in the workforce, are more likely to be occupationally segregated, and are paid at a lower rate than their non-disabled colleagues. In addition home ownership appears to be lower than for non disabled people. As a further complicating variable, there is a gap between disabled men and disabled women, who are more disadvantaged.
This background paper therefore is a start in addressing the issue by providing an overall picture. Detail is often unavailable because disability research is limited overall but particularly underdeveloped in relation to retirement.
The paper is in four sections. The first examines the current situation, describes interrelated factors in retirement savings for disabled people and considers future developments. A second section considers barriers, risks and opportunities in the situation. The third section looks at the implications for policies, and a final section makes suggestions for further relevant actions.