Think you’re working your butt off now, paying bills and making sacrifices to secure a comfortable future? You need to wake up! ATO data has revealed that 40 per cent of older, single women will live below the poverty line.
No more movies, the odd dinner out, the occasional beauty treatment. You will be struggling to eat three times a day. And don’t even think about leaving your husband… you can’t afford to.
Women, when they retire, have about half as much superannuation as men. It is astonishing that to date, few practical solutions have been implemented to resolve this. Why? Perhaps it’s because it is men who decide about your taxes, superannuation and how the employment landscape is designed.
There has never been an Australian female treasurer. Of twelve assistant treasurers, only two have been female. Similarly, there have been only two female finance ministers. Decisions about tax and super are made from a male perspective.
The Senate Standing Committee on Economics is due to report on the gender retirement income gap by 29 April 2016. Women on lower taxable incomes suffer the most. Data from the ATO shows that there are almost 40 per cent more females than males in the bottom two tax brackets.
The ability to accumulate super depends on two things: Early career contributions to benefit from the magic of compounding interest, and income level. Women lose out on both these fronts. Acknowledging this issue is a start. That it has been allowed to fester and the gaps widen over so many years is an indictment on the system.
Yet women are not getting paid less than men for doing the same work. The stats reveal that women in general, begin working more or less, on an equal footing with men.
But something significant changes down the track: biology. Women, if they want children, must take time out from their careers. While granting parental leave is mandatory in Australia, a woman’s career prospects when she returns to work are often on a different trajectory from when she departed.
Flexibility becomes a priority and it usually impacts the bottom line. There is a quid pro quo expected by many employers who allow their employees (almost always women) to work flexibly. Women trade away higher income, status and prospects for promotion. That the quality of their work, billings to the organisation and their efficiency may not be impacted is often not relevant.
This outdated lens of evaluating performance based on time in the office has a significant detrimental effect on women and their opportunity for advancement and ability to optimise their earning potential. And if their earnings are limited (or stymied) this has a flow on effect to income apportioned to superannuation.