Retirement is not so super for women

Australia’s compulsory superannuation system is failing women who are retiring with around half as much superannuation (53%) as men.


In a major research collaboration, Per Capita and the Australian Services Union have conducted surveys with over 4,000 workers and analysed available data to examine the causes of the gender superannuation gap, and developed recommendations to close the gap.


“In accumulating superannuation, women face a ‘wicked problem’. Their work is more intermittent and lower paid than that of their male counterparts. Combined with the fact that they still do the overwhelming majority of unpaid housework, parenting and caring, this has meant that the benefits of super have not flowed to women as hoped.” David Hetherington, Senior Fellow at Per Capita, said.


The report finds that the most significant explanation for the superannuation gender gap is motherhood.


“While mothers suffer a very substantial pay and superannuation penalty compared to women without children, fathers receive a super and pay bonus, earning more, and accumulating more super than men who are not fathers.” said Mr Hetherington.


The report recommends tracking all superannuation balances in order to intervene for those who are falling behind an acceptable ‘accumulation pathway’. Such interventions could include government top-ups, tax relief, superannuation account fee discounts and the inclusion of a superannuation component to Family Tax Benefit B.


ASU National Secretary David Smith said, “The ASU’s surveys revealed heartbreaking stories of women who will work most of their lives only to reach retirement facing a life of poverty – but documenting the problem is not enough.


Other recommendations in the report are more systemic, including:

  • re-establishment of the Office of the Status of Women
  • inclusion of superannuation payments in carer payments and all parental leave payments
  • retention and expansion of the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset
  • suspension of superannuation fund fees during parental leave
  • need to reduce the very high effective marginal tax rates faced by women due to the combination of taxation and withdrawal of family payments.


Download the report, “Not So Super, For Women: Superannuation and Women’s Retirement Outcomes”.


20 July 2017.