Breaking Down The Gender Gap In Superannuation

Gender disparities are not confined to salary rates alone; they extend their reach into superannuation accounts, shaping retirement outcomes for Australian women. Various factors, including barriers to specific fields, lower hourly wages, fewer work hours, and additional unpaid labour, contribute to a significant gender gap in superannuation balances. As a result, women often retire with substantially less in their super accounts than their male counterparts.

The current landscape paints a stark picture. The median superannuation balance (as of 2022’s statistics) for men aged 60-64 hovers around $204,107, while their female counterparts in the same age group have a median total of $146,900. This glaring difference constitutes a 28% gender superannuation gap.

The impact of gender inequality on superannuation is particularly evident when women utilise maternity leave. Taking time off work during paid parental leave translates to missed super contributions, further exacerbating pre-existing income and superannuation gaps. This extended absence from the workforce during critical earning years can have lasting effects on women’s financial well-being in retirement.

The superannuation gap is also intertwined with existing salary gaps across various sectors. Despite more women entering traditionally male-dominated fields, they often find themselves in lower-ranking positions, irrespective of their experience and qualifications.

Addressing the superannuation gender gap requires systemic changes at a macro level. Several proposed measures include:

  • Inclusion of Superannuation Guarantee Contributions in Paid Parental Leave

Recognising that a majority of paid parental leave recipients are women, integrating superannuation guarantee contributions into the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave scheme could mitigate the widening gap.

  • Unlimited Concessional Contributions for Paid Parental Leave Recipients

Allowing unused concessional contributions for recipients of Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave without time limits could counteract the negative impact on women’s superannuation outcomes.

  • Amending the Sex Discrimination Act

A critical step involves amending the Sex Discrimination Act to enable employers to make higher superannuation payments for their female employees without violating existing legislation.

Despite systemic challenges, women can take proactive steps to boost their super balances:

Contribution Splitting

Opting for contribution splitting enables spouses to transfer some superannuation contributions to their partner’s account, helping to balance and bolster their super balances.

Salary Sacrifice Contributions

Women can consider salary-sacrificing contributions into their super accounts to compensate for shortfalls resulting from periods of non-working, ensuring a more robust financial foundation for retirement.

In conclusion, the superannuation gender gap demands attention and concerted efforts for meaningful change. From policy adjustments to individual financial strategies, a collective commitment is essential to bridging this gap and ensuring a more equitable retirement future for all Australians.