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New report reveals retirement is not so super for women

20 July 2017 By ASU & Per Capita

Following two major ASU surveys about retirement security, what we learned demanded further study and the search for solutions. Today we are proud to launch the report: “Not So Super, For Women: Superannuation and Women’s Retirement Outcomes”, in collaboration with progressive think tank Per Capita. The report confirms our findings, but importantly, it outlines some significant recommendations which we believe will greatly improve retirement outcomes for low paid workers.

170720 not so super for women1200pxwAustralia’s compulsory superannuation system is failing women. According to the latest figures, women are retiring with around half as much superannuation (53%) as men.

In a major research collaboration, Per Capita and the Australian Services Union have conducted surveys with over 4,000 workers and analysed available data to examine the causes of the gender superannuation gap, and developed recommendations to close the gap.

“In accumulating superannuation, women face a ‘wicked problem’. Their work is more intermittent and lower paid than that of their male counterparts. Combined with the fact that they still do the overwhelming majority of unpaid housework, parenting and caring, this has meant that the benefits of super have not flowed to women as hoped.” David Hetherington, Senior Fellow at Per Capita, said.

The report finds that the most significant explanation for the superannuation gender gap is motherhood.

“While mothers suffer a very substantial pay and superannuation penalty compared to women without children, fathers receive a super and pay bonus, earning more, and accumulating more super than men who are not fathers.” said Mr Hetherington.

The report recommends tracking all superannuation balances in order to intervene for those who are falling behind an acceptable ‘accumulation pathway’.

The report recommends tracking all superannuation balances in order to intervene for those who are falling behind an acceptable ‘accumulation pathway’. Such interventions could include government top-ups, tax relief, superannuation account fee discounts and the inclusion of a superannuation component to Family Tax Benefit B.

ASU National Secretary David Smith said, “The ASU’s surveys revealed heartbreaking stories of women who will work most of their lives only to reach retirement facing a life of poverty – but documenting the problem is not enough. This report provides policy initiatives that are simple, achievable and measurable recommendations that we believe will, over time, greatly improve the superannuation outcomes for women in Australia.”

Other recommendations are more systemic, including:

  • re-establishment of the Office of the Status of Women,
  • inclusion of superannuation payments in carer payments and all parental leave payments;
  • retention and expansion of the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset;
  • suspension of superannuation fund fees during parental leave; and
  • need to reduce the very high effective marginal tax rates faced by women due to the combination of taxation and withdrawal of family payments.

We wish to thank the thousands of people who completed to our two surveys on retirement and superannuation. It was your candid responses that sharpened the focus on the systemic problems that exist and ensured that many would take note when we brought your stories to them. We will continue to campaign to alleviate the prospect of poverty and hardship that many low paid workers face – this new report will provide a blueprint for that campaign.

 icon Not So Super, For Women: Superannuation and Women’s Retirement Outcomes (August 2017 version)


Media contacts

David Hetherington, Senior Fellow, Per Capita – 0413 863 068,
Warwick Smith, Research Economist, Per Capita – 0433 756 093,
Brigid Marasco, National Communications Officer, ASU – 0409 192 070, 


Media coverage

'I will be stuffed': How superannuation sells women short - EXCLUSIVE by Peter Martin & Matilda Boseley, The Age, 19 July 2017
Also available on news websites of: Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, WA Today and The Canberra Times

Flawed by design: why superannuation fails women - COMMENT by Peter Martin, The Age, 19 July 2017

Superannuation pay gap - ABC Radio National Breakfast - radio interview, 20 July 2017

Australia remains a gender-segregated workplace, by Bernard Keane, Crikey, 20 July 2017 (paywall)

New study finds women retire with almost half the superannuation of men - ABC Radio, The World Today - radio interview, 20 July 2017

How superannuation puts women at a disadvantage: "I will be stuffed" - by Georgia Dixon, Over60, 20 July 2017

Thanks for caring, now your Superannuation’s worth half as much as men - by Angela Priestly, Women's Agenda, 20 July 2017

Superannuation: Women on track to retire with half as much as men, study finds, by Antoinette Lattouf, ABC News Online, 20 July 2017
Also available on news websites of: MSN Money

NOT-SO-SUPER, ABC-TV The Drum, 20 July 2017 (from 21:17 on)

McManus backs study's calls for action on mother-unfriendly super, by Workplace Express, 20 July 2017 (paywall)

The retirement system is failing our mothers, by Jackson Stiles, The New Daily, 20 July 2017

Women's superannuation not looking so super, by SBS World News Radio, 20 July 2017

Retirement is not so super for women, by SeniorAU, 20 July 2017

Gender imbalance in super studied, by CareerSpot, 21 July 2017

The Perrett Report, Sky News (three minute segment discussing the report, Emma Dawson, Per Capita), 23 July 2017

Super Is Absolutely Sexist. This Is How We Fix It, by Lauren Sams,, 24 July 2017

The superannuation system doesn't work for women. It's time to do better, by David Hetherington (opinion piece by report co-author), The Guardian, 24 July 2017

Most superannuation nest eggs won’t save you from a pension, by Judith Sloan, The Australian, 24 July 2017

The super system is failing women, The Grapevine, 3RRR, 24 July (Emma Dawson, Per Capita)

Superannuation system "systematically biased" against women, by HR Daily, 27 July 2017

Women short-changed by superannuation face poverty, by Margaret Gleeson, Green Left Weekly, 28 July 2017

Why super has lost its lustre, by Daryl Dixon (comment), Brisbane Times, 30 July 2017

Claims super is 'biased' against women are nonsense, by Noel Whittaker (comment), Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 2017

How to balance a career with ‘Potential Motherhood’, by Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda, 3 August 2017

Not So Super, For Women, (starts at 1:35:48) ABC radio Sydney, Mornings Institute with Wendy Harmer, interview with David Hetherington of Per Capita

Superannuation & women’s retirement options, by Per Capita for Source: Poverty & Inequality (Brotherhood of St Laurence), 7 August 2017

Our superannuation system picks on women for having kids, Craig Emerson, Australian Financial Review, 28 August 2017

New five point plan to help women build super, by Ali Cain, FINSIA, 26 September 2017

Making superannuation just a little more super for women, by Kirstin Hunter, Future Super, 19 October 2017

Women Are Being Dudded When They Need Cash Most, by Charlotte Willis,, 27 October 2017

 The superannuation gender gap – how can we do better?The superannuation gender gap – how can we do better? – by Saffron Sweeney AON Hewitt 1 March 2018

Call for a six-hour work day to fix super gender gap – By Sally Rose, Investment Magazine 15 March 2018

Childcare workers' strike: 'We educate these children, we're not babysitting, by Neha Kale, The Guardian 26 March 2018 

Retirement not so super, for women, By Meredith Booth, Investment Magazine 4 May 2018

Related ASUnews

Poverty & hardship in retirement was not what we bargained for, 17 November 2016

Help us achieve a superannuation system that guarantees retirement security for all, 18 October 2016

Senate agrees with ASU on retirement security of women – much more must be done, 24 May 2016

Anxiety the response when low paid workers think about retirement, 22 February 2016

Policy changes needed to address discrimination leading to disproportionate number of women in poverty & hardship in retirement, 11 December 2015

Financial insecurity in retirement – how do we address inequality to avoid hardship & poverty? 6 October 2015


Contact Details
Name: David Smith, ASU National Secretary
Telephone: 03 9342 1400