The gender gap in superannuation balances would still exist even if the gender pay gap were closed, according to an Industry Super Australia analysis of ABS data.
Industry Super Australia (ISA) specialist retirement policy adviser and former Treasury taskforce director Phil Gallagher pulled data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and found the super gap was widest right before retirement.
In a comparison of men and women aged 25-34, with both groups working full-time and earning the same income, a superannuation gap of 14.6 per cent was uncovered.
Among those aged 55 to 64 years old, the gap was more than triple this figure, at 47.4 per cent.
ABS’ 2015-16 Survey of Income and Housing demonstrated that the average super balance for a 55 to 64-year-old man was $166,339, while women the same age had only accumulated $96,011 – a difference of $70,328.
Commenting on the statistics, ISA head of consumer advocacy Sarah Saunders said the super gap that emerged over a woman’s lifetime was attributable to the impact of interruptions to a woman’s work life in the form of unpaid caregiver duties.
“While a woman might return to a good salary after time out to care for a child or an ageing parent, she will have little chance of ever making up the super shortfall,” Ms Saunders said.
“That women today face thirty years in retirement with half as much super as men – because the system doesn’t put an economic value on unpaid care – is unacceptable”.
She argued that business and government policies – such as flexible work options, accessible childcare, and super payments while on parental leave – needed to recognise and reflect the nature of women’s movement in and out of work.
“The super shortfall highlights the importance of ensuring that the Age Pension safety net keeps pace with living standards by continuing to link it to wages rather than CPI,” Ms Saunders added.
In November last year, InvestorDaily reported on research that found women were financially disadvantaged by the onus of caregiver responsibilities that generally fell upon them.
“The existing superannuation system is designed around men and assumes an average of 40 years spent in continuous full-time employment to accumulate sufficient retirement funds,” said University of South Australia Centre for Workplace Excellence researcher Justine Irving.
“It doesn’t take into account that many women spend long periods out of the workforce while raising children.”
Ms Irving also echoed Ms Saunders’ sentiments that government should be doing more to provide support for women.
“It's not the fault of a woman that she is unable to earn equal pay in some circumstances, or that she is more likely to engage in casual or part time work,” Ms Irving said.
“She's not able to accumulate superannuation at all in some cases, so I guess it's hard for individual women themselves to fix it without broader support.”
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