Submission on the Economic Security for Women in Retirement

Executive Summary

The Senate Standing Committee is calling for submissions regarding the economic security of women in retirement, including regarding superannuation.  The Society believes that this issue is a symptom of two deeper, structural problems:  gender inequality, and age discrimination.

Women have long been expected – whether explicitly or tacitly – to assume ‘carer’ roles within our society. These roles often demand time and effort that could otherwise have been dedicated to securing full-time employment opportunities that would contribute to superannuation. The current superannuation system does not recognise the contribution of carers – meaning that older women who have had to sacrifice their financial security in order to fulfil these gender roles are put in a financially and socially vulnerable position. This leaves older women increasingly at particular risk of homelessness and domestic violence (as they don’t have the resources to leave violence situations).

Gendered ageism is another cause of the wide superannuation gender gap. Specifically, older women are stereotyped as less desirable workers who only have limited potential. Such an unfair characterisation means that older, female employees are often passed over for training or promotion opportunities that would have given them more of an opportunity to contribute to superannuation, thus increasing the gender retirement income gap.

Considering the above, the Society believes that the government should address the root cause of this issue by committing to a national plan on gender equality. Only by changing our traditional notions of gender roles can we finally take the first steps in reducing the income and superannuation inequality between men and women in the long-run.

The Society also advocates for short-term measures, such as the implementation of a national program of workplace gender discrimination training, and the introduction of a ‘carers credit’ system within the current superannuation structure. We believe that if the government formally recognises – and financially rewards – (predominantly female) carers, this would go a long way in not only redressing the superannuation gender gap, but also in securing the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of older women in general.