Thousands of women will be left behind in terms of economic security despite efforts to bridge the gender super cap in this year’s budget.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that the $450 monthly minimum income threshold for super would be scrapped, allowing 200,000 women to make contributions toward their super, something that University of Sydney’s Professor Elizabeth Hill says doesn’t go far enough.
“This is not a game changer for women’s economic security, it’s not as good as the treasurer would have us think it might be for women,” she said.
The move has been welcomed by gender equity advocates, however, they are disappointed other measures didn’t make it into the budget.
From the age of 32 onwards, the gender super gap tends to really start to get bigger and bigger
“We’re really delighted that the $450 monthly threshold is going … we are disappointed though, that we didn’t also have super guarantee on paid parental leave introduced, we were certainly hoping that they would be the two measures that would go together,” Women in Super CEO Sandra Buckley said.
According to Ms Buckley, women tend to be behind men in terms of super thanks to the gender pay gap, something that worsens when a woman has children.
“From the age of 32 onwards, the gender super gap tends to really start to get bigger and bigger,” she said.
The government’s decision to not provide guaranteed super to women who take time off work to care for children or other relatives was a “missed opportunity” according to Professor Hill.
The “sandwich generation” of women who have taken time off work to care for children, elderly parents, or sick partners find it difficult to get back into the workforce and to make contributions toward their superannuation.
“They’re struggling to make ends meet … [Women in Super] would like some sort of debate or discussion in Australia around that whole issue of women’s caring responsibilities,” Ms Buckley said.
Another issue contributing to the gap is that women disproportionately dominate part-time and low paid work, Professor Hill said, something that contributes to the “huge inequality” between men and women’s super balances when retiring.
“So the only way to really address that is to address the gender pay gap and the undervaluation of highly feminised jobs and to improve job security,” she said.
Professor Hill said that more investment into the care workforce, which includes health, aged and childcare, would be a “game changer” in terms of boosting women’s super.
It’s a very, very, very small step in the right direction
Ms Buckley said the Budget’s super changes don’t go far enough to ensure older women are supported in retirement.
“We would like measures targeted at that age cohort in particular … one in three women are retiring with no superannuation, so removing the $450 will go toward hopefully stemming that for younger and some older women but it’s a very, very, very small step in the right direction,” she said.
Main picture by Vagawi/Flickr