By Teresa Ooi,
Supawomen campaign for superannuation payments on parental leave
International Women’s Day was celebrated this week. But the news out of Canberra was strangely out of keeping with the times.
According to reports on the day when women’s achievements were taking centre stage, a sub-committee looking at issues for the upcoming general election has decided helping bridge the retirement gap between men and women isn’t worth doing.
Despite a recommendation from the Productivity Commission and the governments own Retirement Income Review, the committee turned down the idea of giving young mothers super payments during parental leave. The only person who can step in now and overturn the call is the Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself.
Industry Super Australia said in a report 171,000 women missed out on $216.7 million in super payments in the 2019/20 financial year alone.
Over a million Australian women have missed out on more than $1.6 billion in superannuation in the last 10 years.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. And the result will be hundreds of thousands of young women will continue to face an enormous difference between their super savings and those of men – sometimes up to $150,000.
The move came as a big surprise – particularly since the Productivity Commission and the government’s own Retirement Income Review supported it.
The superannuation big guns are behind it – and so are a large number of employers who have seen the long-term retention benefits of supporting young families.
Industry Super found 1.6 million young mothers have missed out on $1.86 billion in super payments in the last decade. And the Callaghan review found it would cost around $200 million to implement the change.
But perhaps super just wasn’t sexy enough.
A poll by Supawomen, the campaign by financial literacy site Reallysimplemoney.com.au to get a fairer super deal for women, found over 60 per cent of 2,000 readers polled said the issue would affect their vote.
So what went wrong?
The Morrison government badly needs a circuit breaker on women. And this seemed the perfect opportunity.
But Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, who sits on cabinet’s expenditure review, refused to support it.
Interestingly, Labor doesn’t yet have a position on the issue. The Greens, on the other hand, are expected to strongly support super on parental leave. Trade unions already do.
Our campaign is pushing for younger women to get free advice about their super in their thirties, using the voucher system Britain has tested with success. That way, they can be alerted to the danger of not having enough retirement savings earlier enough to do something about it.
No word on that proposal, though we did ask financial security minister Jane Hume this morning. No response as yet.
It may come as a surprise to some, but International Women’s Day is over 100 years old. The very first National Woman’s Day was observed across the United States on February 28. It was about getting the vote – but also about equal pay and conditions.
That’s right. The fight for financial fairness is more than a century old, but still as relevant today it was then. We know that in Australia, women earn over 20 per cent less than men on average.
In 1910, an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – created the idea of an International Women’s Day.
Its campaign themes chart the changing trends: #ChooseToChallenge, #EachforEqual, #BalanceforBetter, #PressforProgress, #BeBoldforChange, #PledgeforParity, #MakeItHappen, #TheGenderAgenda and more.
This year’s theme is particularly poignant:#BreakTheBias.
“Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field,” says the world organisation.
The International Women’s Day campaign quotes a World Economic forum report which states: “Gender parity will not be attained for almost a century. None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children”.
You can support our Supawomen campaign – go to our campaign page and add your name and thoughts on this issue.
Teresa Ooi is executive editor of Really Simple Money, a financial literacy site which has been published for 10 years, and is running Supawomen, a campaign to win women a better superannuation deal. See more at reallysimplemoney.com.au/supawomen.