Financial equality a century away, index finds

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor in living room

Generations of women are headed for poverty-stricken retirements, according to comprehensive research. And any sort of parity is unlikely to be achieved before 2122.

The pay gap is 13.4 per cent with male average full-time weekly wages at $1804.20 compared with $1562 for women. On this basis, it would take women an additional 10 months to save for a 20 per cent deposit on the median Australian dwelling.

The gap means men receive $12 billion more in employer superannuation contributions each year than women. Women retire with 36 per cent less super than men and have less super at every stage of life. The super balance gender gap increases from just under 7 per cent for women in their late 20s to almost 35 per cent for women in their late 40s. It is estimated women retire with an average of $122,848 and men with $154,453.

The Financy Women’s Index predicts women will achieve financial equality in the year 2122.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey reveals three-quarters of women are unlikely to retire having received a full 40 years of super contributions, yet government modelling for the Retirement Income Review assumed everyone retires with four decades of super, The West reports.

“Women average just 30.1 years of contributions, while men average 36.2 years.

“A recent retirement survey, commissioned by Industry Super Australia, found that on average women spend 12 fewer years in the full-time workforce than men, with that time away from work having a dramatic impact on their super balance.”

Read more: Why retirees bear brunt of low interest rates

Industry Super Australia strategic engagement director Gemma Pinnell said lifting the Superannuation Guarantee rate to 12 per cent, as legislated, was vital to lift women’s savings.

“Until we fix inequities in the super system, like the outdated $450 threshold, we will continue to see women retiring with balances that are persistently lower than men,” she said in a statement.

A childcare overhaul would help fix the $242-per-week pay gap, three experts told The New Daily.

Lisa Annese, CEO of the Diversity Council of Australia, says childcare should be considered a family expense like a mortgage or electricity, not as a “women’s issue”.

Richard Holden, professor of economics at UNSW, says society needs to have a “reckoning” about how it values less well-paid occupations dominated by women, such as teaching and nursing.

Targets are needed to get more women into higher-paying managerial roles, said Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, Financy editor.

“If you look at the gender gap in the number of women in ASX top 200 boards, in the gender diversity component, the targets set in 2016 are proving really effective.

“If we apply that same rationale for all companies promoting like-for-like pay gaps, then that could have an influence.”

Read more: Choosing a financial planner for retirement

Rice Warner actuaries suggest increased superannuation contributions for women by paying the Superannuation Guarantee (SG) on paid parental leave and the payment of 2 per cent more SG contributions for women up to age 30. They say those who fall behind could be supported in retirement through social housing and/or increased rental assistance.

Labor announced that if it wins the next federal election, it will set up a “searchable gender pay equity portal” that would publish the gender pay gaps of individual companies. 

“Companies currently report gender pay data to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), but the results from individual companies are not made public,” The Guardian reported.

Labor also proposes to prohibit pay secrecy clauses that prevent employees from disclosing their rate of pay, strengthen the capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in low-paid, female-dominated industries, and address the gender pay gap in the Australian Public Service.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott told The Australian reducing the gender pay gap was a problem for the community, “not just large businesses”.

“These are society-wide, structural challenges that mean women are more likely to enter low-paying jobs in low-paying industries – a disclosure regime can’t fix that.”

However, last year, WGEA director Libby Lyons warned that there was a “troubling” decline in the number of employers taking action to address gender pay gaps.

What should be done to address the gender pay gap? What measures to address gender pay equity do you support?

Read more: More Australians in poverty

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Written by Will Brodie

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