Super policies insufficient in closing gender gap

Measures and policies to alleviate the retirement savings gap between males and females are not going to make a significant enough difference to average balances of women as the problem needs to be addressed at a more fundamental level.

Independent director of UniSuper board, Nicolette Rubinsztein, referred to various policy suggestions made by bodies such as the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).

In its submission to the economic security for women in retirement ASFA suggested making superannuation guarantee (SG) contributions on income replacement payments, ensuring higher levels of concessional contribution caps so women could catch up, and merits of the low income superannuation tax offset (LISTO), previously known as the low income superannuation contribution (LISC).

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"It is quite frustrating when we have these discussions trying to think of mechanisms or regulatory responses because some of the ideas were things like, well, should women have a higher SG rate?" Rubinsztein said.

"But a lot of people and myself included don't like the idea of making certain policies favour women or men at a time when we're trying to encourage men to share an equal load or share more of a responsibility for child rearing."

While Rubensztein said policies such as higher concessional contribution caps, LISTO, and SG payments in income replacement payments such as maternity leave were vital, she said they would not be substantial enough to contribute meaningfully to closing the balance gap.

"A bigger difference would be made through what you're calling the ‘workforce level' and I think that's a good term for it, in facilitating women to work and that's often part-time or flexibly and addressing the gender pay gap," she said.

"I've just witnessed a lot of women struggling to get roles at all, and the ones that do get jobs are often coming back at vastly reduced salaries from what they had before they went on maternity leave."

Average super balances at the time of retirement in 2013/2014 were $292,500 for men and $138,150 for women, while 55 per cent of women aged between 65 and 69 had no superannuation, ASFA's submission said.

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