Women short changed on super

THE rules regarding compulsory superannuation seem to be short changing women in favour of men. And WA women are faring worse then their counterparts in the eastern states.

Lower wage rates, less opportunity to take up full-time employment and absence from the workforce for family and other reasons all count against women as they move towards retirement age, according to a study by Curtin University and the Women’s Policy division at the Department for Community Development.

The report, Women and Australia’s Retirement Income System, undertaken by the Women’s Economic Policy Analysis Unit of Curtin University indicates that, 10 years after the introduction of compulsory superannuation, 25 per cent of the pre-retired female population is still without superannuation. Half of all women retiring in the next decade will have a nest egg of less than $20,000.

If they retire at age 65, it means they will only have saved enough superannuation for $1,400 a year, based on average life expectancy.

The report also found that women in WA earn less than their counterparts in other States.

WA women working full time earn, on average, 6.8 per cent less than the national figure. Women in rural areas earn 10.6 per cent less than the average for all Australian women employed nationally.

However, WA women are more likely to participate in the workforce and have a higher incidence of part-time employment.

“The significant wage disadvantage experienced by women in WA, combined with the higher incidence of part-time work means that, on average, levels of superannuation accumulated by women in WA will fall below levels accumulated nationally,” the report says.

Co-author and director of the Women’s Economic Analysis Unit, Siobhan Austen, said the problem was that women didn’t spend as long in the workforce, so their level of savings was very low and often inadequate.

“A lot of women miss out on super when they take time out for maternity leave, because it is unpaid,” she said. “One of the things the Government could consider was to keep making contributions on behalf of the woman while she is on leave.

“I think paid maternity leave is something women should be able to benefit from.”

This also would encourage women to have families and would result in social benefits, Ms Austen said.

“Another problem is that women get paid less than men. At the moment women are earning about 20 per cent less than men in WA, so that affects their super,” she said.

Miscellaneous Workers Union WA secretary Helen Creed said the report highlighted the need to remove the inequality in wages between the sexes.

“The amount of super women have is considerably less then it is for men, and that can be linked back to wage inequality,” Ms Creed said.

The report says while the Government could do more to reduce the inequality in super-annuation, women also need to begin planning at an early age for their retirement.

“We need a good supply of information for young women so that they get into saving when they are still young,” Dr Austen said.

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