Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Many of you will be familiar with the fact that women often retire with less super to fund their retirement than men. This is despite women’s participation in the workforce significantly increasing over recent decades. In this post we look at some of the contributing factors and outline some possible actions to address this.

In Australia, the gap between wages for men and women has remained relatively stable over the last two decades and is still currently sitting at 17.9 per cent1. By the time retirement rolls around, the gap in super for men and women has increased to 46.6 per cent, with average super balances at retirement being $197,000 for men and $105,000 for women2.

In fact, one in three women will retire with no super at all, and 90 per cent of women won’t meet the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s (ASFA) ‘comfortable’ retirement income standard3 (an annual retirement income of $42,861 for a single person).

There are a myriad of factors that influence this – as well as the gender gap in wages mentioned above, there is a higher percentage of women working in casual employment, lower-paid industries or self- employed. Many women have time out of the paid workforce and do not reach the same levels of seniority as their male counterparts.

Our current retirement system is based on the premise that all employees experience uninterrupted working lives. Taking time out of the workforce (such as unpaid parental  leave, where no super contributions are made) will also impact super accumulation. If, for example, six months of super guarantee (SG) was applied to the parental leave of a 35-year-old woman earning $50,000, it could add $10,000 to her final super balance2

Many women go on to have a ‘broken’ employment pattern – reducing their working hours to a part-time role, or taking casual work for family commitments. 

Even for those choosing to work part-time or casually, there are additional requirements which must be met to be eligible for the SG contributions, such as the need to be earning $450 a month or more from a single employer. An estimated 250,000 Australians miss out on super contributions due to this threshold, most of them women2.

Women are more likely to retire earlier4 than men and also live longer5, only adding to the retirement savings gap. The impact of the factors listed above on a super balance in any combination can be significant. 

Submissions to the Senate inquiry into the economic security for women in retirement have recently closed, with a report on the outcomes expected in March 2016. We await these findings with keen interest. While the Senate inquiry will also consider what measures will provide women with access to adequate and secure retirement incomes, and potentially culminate in policy action from the Government to address these, there are things women can do now to address some of the gender gap in super:

  • Take an interest! Get to know your super fund and start to plan as early as possible. Track down any lost or unclaimed accounts and consider whether it is right for you to consolidate your super accounts. 
  • Consider making additional contributions – Super Guru (ASFA’s consumer website) suggests considering the ‘one per cent rule’ by adding an extra one percent to super contributions.
  • Consider whether spouse contributions6 are another way to boost your superannuation balance.
  • Consider that for low income earners there may be access the Australian Government’s Super Co-contribution7.

 

1. September 2015 – Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.
2. ASFA via SuperGuru http://www.superguru.com.au/about-super/women-and-super/, accessed on 23 November 2015.
3. As at June 2015 and assumes retirees owns home, full details and methodology available on:  http://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard.
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
6. Eligibility factors apply and caps apply, please refer to website details for further details.
7. Eligibility factors apply and caps apply, please refer to https://qsuper.qld.gov.au/calculators-and-forms/calculators/maximise-your-super/cocontribution/ for further details.

The views of the author and those who provide the responses to comments posted on this blog are not necessarily the views of the QSuper Board. We’ve put this information together as general information only and you should get professional advice before relying on this information.

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