ABS responds to 'The ageing nation poses problems of how to cope' (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2013, pg 5)

To the Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald,

I refer to Peter Martin's article of 22 November 2013, 'The ageing nation poses problems on how to cope'. The article suggests that the Productivity Commission believes ABS life expectancy estimates are “seriously misleading”. This is not true. The relevant extract of the Commission’s report states that period life expectancies (which the ABS does compile) “can be seriously misleading for actuarial and policy purposes”. While this point could be argued, it is certainly not true that the Commission is suggesting that the ABS life expectancy estimates are generally misleading as the article infers.

The ABS's life expectancy estimates are based on current mortality rates. Mortality rates can, and do, change over time, but the ABS does not seek to predict what these will be in the future. The ABS does not advocate or propose a ‘best’ projection of life expectancy.

Peter Harper
Deputy Australian Statistician
November 2013