The Greens have called for a Senate inquiry into superannuation and gender equity, following damning evidence that the system is failing women.
On Wednesday, ANZ released a report that found women retire with half as much superannuation as men, and that 90 per cent of women can expect to retire with insufficient super.
Speaking to The New Daily, Greens MP and spokesperson for industrial relations Adam Bandt said it was time for a thorough inquiry into what is going wrong.
“Women are expected to live up to three or four years longer than men, but do it with superannuation balances that are close to half of those of men,” he said.
“When you add the longer life expectancy with the lower superannuation balances and the declining level of the pension, you’re finding that many women are getting to the end of their working lives and finding themselves in poverty.”
He said one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people is older women, many of whom have missed years of work looking after children, and later got divorced. At retirement these women find themselves in a “very, very precarious situation”.
“As a wealthy country, we’re letting a lot of people, and older women in particular, fall through the cracks,” Mr Bandt said.
The Greens have a part-solution to this: allow employers to pay their female employees more than their male employees, as ANZ has announced it will do. However, Mr Bandt said this is not as simple as it sounds, as discrimination laws raise questions as to whether this is legal.
“Currently under legislation you can’t discriminate against someone of a particular sex by paying them more or less superannuation, unless it’s to redress inequality. There’s conflicting advice about whether paying women more superannuation requires an exemption from the Human Rights Commissioner or Sex Discrimination Commissioner, or whether you can just go ahead and do it.”
But more broadly, Mr Bandt said a Senate inquiry is an opportunity to look at why the current pension and superannuation system is failing women.
So will the Greens get the support of the Senate on this? Labor’s spokesperson on superannuation Bernie Ripoll gave no commitment either way, saying he would wait to “see what it looks like and what they’re trying to achieve”. However he conceded an inquiry “won’t do any harm”.
The New Daily contacted the minister responsible for superannuation, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, but received no response.
The ANZ report finds that the average woman retires with just over half as much superannuation (around $90,000) as the average man (who has $172,000).
Ninety per cent of women will retire with insufficient superannuation, while one in five women currently has no superannuation at all.
While the gender gap is not such a big deal for women with male partners who stay together through retirement, it is a major issue for single and divorced women.
The report finds that at the average age of divorce – 42 – the average woman has $42,000 in super. The average male divorcee, meanwhile, divorces at 45 with $128,000 in his super balance. Only one in six women consider superannuation in a divorce settlement.
The industry’s response
Not-for-profit super bodies Industry Super Australia (ISA) and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees threw their support behind a senate inquiry.
ISA deputy chief executive Robbie Campo said: “Our modelling shows that even in a fully mature super system, with super, pension payments and other savings combined, 63 per cent of single women will still not be retiring comfortably by 2055 unless we act now to rebalance our retirement income system.”