Australia’s superannuation system consists of individual retirement accounts that cannot be accessed until the taxpayer reaches the legislated preservation age. Most of the deposits to these accounts are the mandatory contributions that employers make. Some of the claimed justifications for superannuation are weak. Specifically, claims that superannuation is necessary to prevent a looming ageing crisis and is justified on the grounds of intergenerational equity lose much of their force when examined in the context of substantially higher future incomes. One of the justifications for superannuation that has merit is that it helps promote income smoothing. Although there are some strong arguments for retirement policies that help promote income smoothing, given the long term trend towards income inequality, there are also convincing arguments towards an emphasis on retirement policies that distribute incomes more equally. If income smoothing is on balance seen as a desirable goal then there is merit in Australia’s superannuation system being complemented by a fully funded government run defined benefits scheme.
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