Payday Super to Aid 1 Million Women in Receiving Owed Retirement Contributions

Industry Super Australia

About 1 million Australian women have been deprived of more than $1.3 billion in super contributions they are owed in a year, new analysis shows.

In feminised industries like childcare, aged care, hospitality and personal services about a quarter of female workers suffer super underpayments, costing them up to $40,000 from their retirement nest egg. For some women, this is the equivalent of almost 10% of their savings.

The latest Industry Super Australia analysis of the 2019-20 tax file shows that one in five women are underpaid super. The super swindle has cost women a staggering $10.8 billion over seven years.

Younger women on lower incomes are greatly impacted – almost 40 per cent of women in their 20s earning less than $25,000 were short-changed. On average this cohort missed out on $570 a year.

And one in four women under 40 have been ripped off.

Women nearing retirement have about a third less super than men, are more likely to have broken career patterns and earn less than men. Missing out on those early life contributions will put them further behind.

A new report Super Solution: How Payday Super will benefit women in retirement, found that a 90s era law that allows super to be paid quarterly is contributing to the unpaid super scourge.

Modernising the law so that super is paid on payday will make it easier for workers to keep track of payments, drastically reducing the prevalence of unpaid super.

While most bosses do the right thing, some exploit the outdated laws and lack of engagement to hide underpayments, others are tempted into using employees super to manage cashflow only to accumulate large super liabilities they later can’t meet.

As payday super is cost neutral to the federal budget, it can be quickly enacted to allow thousands more women to get the vital early super contributions needed to build a financially secure retirement, while the government secures the funding for other gender super equity measure like paying super on parental leave.

This simple policy solution could reduce unpaid super by at least 15%, ISA estimates.

It also boosts the retirement savings of all the 4.2 million Australian workers who are paid super quarterly.

ISA modelling shows that a 30-year-old earning the age-based median wage could be $8,000 better off at retirement if paid super fortnightly instead of quarterly, because contributions would compound for longer if paid more frequently.

Payday super is:

  • The most effective solution
  • Better for business: by eliminating red tape and allowing smoother payroll management
  • Women would be better off now and into the future
  • Affordable and a long-term revenue positive to the Budget.

The ATO only recovers a dismal 15% of unpaid super, and while any move by the government to give third parties the ability to help collect unpaid super debts by including super in the National Employment Standards is welcome, only payday super stops the unpaid super problem at its source.

Super should also be included in the Fair Entitlements Guarantee – a government safety net that pays workers’ entitlements when businesses go bust.

Comments attributable to Industry Super Australia Advocacy Director Georgia Brumby:

“Unpaid super is depriving 1 million women a year the chance to save for a financially secure future.”

“It is a crushing financial blow that many women – who are still retiring with a third less super than men – won’t recover from and can wipe out 10% of their savings.”

“Aligning payment of super and wages is the right thing to do by workers, boosts government revenue, lifts investment returns and puts all employers on a level playing field.”

“Paying super on payday will help women claw back more super now, while the government is unable to commit to other equity measures like paying super on paid parental leave.”

Table 1: Projected impacts of unpaid super on selected female-dominated occupations


Retirement savings

Lifetime disposable income

Age Pension expenditure

Aged care worker




Childcare worker




Enrolled nurse




Hospitality worker




Personal assistant




Sales assistant




Source: ISA analysis of ATO’s 2 per cent confidentialised unit record file and ABS 2021 Census.

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