‘Herstory’ of Superannuation – Let’s not go back to 70s

Women In Super (WIS)

Media Release: The ‘Herstory’ of Superannuation – Let’s not go back to the 70s

Women in Super Chair, Cate Wood, has called on the Government to end the reckless indulgence of backbench men seeking to undermine compulsory superannuation and condemn further generations of women to poverty and homelessness in retirement.

At the end of the 2020 Women’s Super Summit Ms Wood released ‘The Herstory of Superannuation‘ a paper from Per Capita for Women in Super, that examines the history of superannuation for Australian women. The paper marks the contribution of superannuation to the independent accumulation of retirement savings and identifies what more could to be done to improve the system in order to mitigate women’s vulnerability to poverty in retirement.

Herstory of Superannuation illustrates the improvements in women’s retirement incomes resulting from the initially gradual then rapid extension of superannuation to women through the introduction of compulsory superannuation in 1993. The report tracks the transition from the experiences of the ‘silent generation’, who retired without significant independent superannuation funds, to the ‘baby boomer’ generation who have begun to experience the benefits of superannuation incomes in retirement. This comparison clearly shows the positive impact on women’s financial security of the superannuation revolution.

The report concludes that ‘the Superannuation Guarantee in 1993 was by far the greatest policy intervention to improve retirement incomes for women.’

Ms Wood said it was time to say ‘no more’ to the likes of Andrew Bragg and Tim Wilson who were happy to take women back to the 70’s if not the 50’s as collateral damage in their self-serving, ideological and short-sighted war on super.

Ms Wood said that ‘Despite the successes of compulsory superannuation extending superannuation savings from 15% of women in 1974 (though it was a notional 15% due to lack of vesting) to over 75% today – there is more to be done.’

Ms Wood said that the increase in the Superannuation Guarantee to 12% was crucial for women. “If the Government backs away from this commitment yet again they will be held to account for every woman struggling to pay rent or sleeping in a car in future decades.”

Ms Wood said the impacts of COVID-19 including the Government’s Early Release of Superannuation Scheme had disproportionally impacted women, widened the retirement gender gap and required specific gender analysis and recovery plans.

“Without preservation, compulsion and universality, the superannuation system will return to be a predominantly male privilege and women’s hard-fought improvements in economic security and independence in retirement over the past three decades will be lost.”

“We call on the Government to work with us to improve outcomes for women,” said Ms Wood.

As the nation’s leading voice calling for gender equality in superannuation, Women In Super has long advocated for the increase in the Superannuation Guarantee to 12% as crucial to improve retirement outcomes for women, and the long overdue removal of the $450 monthly earnings threshold and payment of superannuation on Paid Parental Leave as two simple amendments that would assist women who are denied superannuation contributions. Given the economic impact of COVID on women, these proposals are more important than ever.

Women in Super and Per Capita call for superannuation tax concessions to be reviewed with the objective of ensuring they are fairer, more targeted, sustainable and not used as a method of encouraging wealth accumulation. Modelling of a proposal included in the Women in Super Make Super Fair Campaign for government payments early in life to low income earners with low superannuation balances demonstrated it would significantly improve outcomes for women.

In light of the significant impact of COVID-19 on women, there should also be examination of the need for additional targeted measures to assist women to recover their superannuation savings.

About Women in Super:

Women in Super is a national advocacy and networking group for women employed in the superannuation and wider financial services industries, and advocates on behalf of its members and women generally to improve women’s retirement prospects and access to superannuation.

/Public Release.