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Superannuation

Super gender gap smallest in a decade

superannuation gender gap

The gender gap in superannuation has narrowed further, but is still 20 years from being closed.

The gender gap in superannuation has narrowed to its lowest level for more than a decade, but will take close to 20 years to fully close, according to the latest Financy Women’s Index (FWX) figures.

The index, which makes quarterly measurements of the economic progress of women and timeframes to gender equality in Australia in seven areas, found the biggest improvement took place in the superannuation index as the gender gap in median lifetime balances fell from 31 per cent to 25 per cent.

The FWX based the change on the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, which also showed for the financial year to 30 June 2020, the median lifetime balance for women was $50,000 compared to $67,000 for men.

FWX author Bianca Hartge-Hazelman said the improvements in the superannuation gender gap had come at a critical time for women.

“Never before have women been more aware of the need to grow their own super and this is being supported by organisational efforts as well,” Hartge-Hazelman said.

“As a result, we have nearly halved the timeframe to equality in super to 19 years from 31 years.”

Commenting on the index, Barrenjoey Capital chief economist Jo Masters noted that at the current rate the gap would close in 2041.

“This means that we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball; we still need to be proactive with policy initiatives that help to drive this gap down,” Masters said.

FWX stated the narrowing of the superannuation gender gap was driven by a number of factors, including an improvement in the gender pay gap, more paid employment outcomes for women and super withdrawals under the government’s COVID-19 early release scheme in 2020.

According to ATO figures, men accounted for 56 per cent of the 5.5 million applicants for economic relief via super compared to 44 per cent who were women.

The other areas covered by the index are education, employment, underemployment, wages, unpaid work and ASX 200 board gender diversity, and collectively the FWX found overall progress towards gender financial equality reversed in the March quarter due to an increase in the rate of female underemployment.

Additionally, the total time to gender equality in Australia stands at 59 years, according to FWX, based on the worst-performing area of progress of unpaid work, which has so far experienced a positive shift in gender dynamics during the pandemic.

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