Thanks for caring, now your Superannuation's worth half as much as men - Women's Agenda

Thanks for caring, now your Superannuation’s worth half as much as men

Can you guess how much unpaid childcare is worth in Australia?

An estimated $345 billion, according to a March 2017 report by PwC, which would make it the largest industry in the formal economy.

The majority of the work is being undertaken by women.

But don’t expect to get financially rewarded for it.

Such caring responsibilities, as well as the gender pay gap and other factors are contributing to a significant divide between the superannuation savings of women and men. 

We are retiring with around half as much (53%) superannuation as men, according to new research today from think tank Per Capita and the Australian Services Union.

It’s not hard to see why. 

The national pay gap, currently at 16% according to the lastest ABS data, is only the start of the problem.

Across some industries, women working full time are earning as much as 31% less than their male counterparts (in financial and insurance services, for example). Women are not hitting well-paid and senior executive positions anywhere close to the rate of men, and women also continue to account for the good majority of the part time work force (with one in two employed women working part time, compared with one in five men). 

That’s all before we get to the motherhood penalty.

The superannuation system is not set up to account for career breaks for caring purposes, despite the fact such caring is a necessary function of our overall economy — worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year. 

One of the lead Per Capita researchers, David Hetherington says motherhood and fatherhood are stretching the gap in different ways: Mothers face substantial pay gaps and superannuation penalties compared to women without children. Fathers see the opposite occurring, earning more pay, more bonuses and more superannuation compared to men who aren’t fathers. 

The superannuation system was built for people with careers that follow a straight trajectory, who continue working until retirement and can clearly track and predict their accumulated savings.

That’s simply not a reality for most women. 

The study is one of the biggest on the superannuation gap we’ve seen on Women’s Agenda, with more than 4000 workers surveyed, along with extensive analysis of the causes of the gender gap.

The researching parties also make a number of recommendations, including tracking all super balances to identify where intervention is necessary, with ‘accumulation pathways’ offered to those falling behind — such as tax relief, government top-ups, and a Family Tax Benefit B super component. 

The report then goes on to offer more systemic recommendations, including offering super paid on top of all carer payments, suspension of super fund fees during parental leave, and reducing the debilitatingly high effective marginal tax rates some women face.

They also recommend granting more power to, and fully re-establishing the Office for the Status of Women.

Now that would be a very good start.

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