Senate inquiry into economic security for women in retirement

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The Senate has started an inquiry into the economic security of women in retirement.

In the Senate this week Labor Senator Jenny McAllister moved that the Senate Standing Committee on Economics investigate the retirement income gender gap.

“The Senate notes that, although women’s increasing workforce participation has contributed significantly to Australia’s economic productivity and to women’s financial independence, significant socio-economic disparity remains between men and women, illustrated by the pay gap between men and women which sits at 18.8 per cent and the gap in superannuation at retirement is 46.6 per cent,” said the motion. It was moved by Senator McAllister with the support of Liberal Senator Sean Edwards and Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

Under the terms of reference the inquiry into Economic security for women in retirement will investigate:

  1. the impact inadequate superannuation savings has on the retirement outcomes for women,
  2. the extent of the gender retirement income gap and causes of this gap, and its potential drivers including the gender pay gap and women’s caring responsibilities,
  3. whether there are any structural impediments in the superannuation system (impacting on the superannuation savings gap),
  4. the adequacy of the main sources of retirement income for women, and
  5. what measures would provide women with access to adequate and secure retirement incomes; including:
    1. assistance to employers to assist female employees’ superannuation savings,
    2. Government assistance, with reference to the success of previous schemes, and
    3. any possible reforms to current laws relating to superannuation, social security payments, paid parental leave, discrimination, or any other relevant measure.

The Greens recently announced they would push for a Senate inquiry into women’s superannuation, after their bill to exempt employers paying female employees more in superannuation from the Sex Discrimination Act failed to reach a vote.

Announcement of the inquiry has been welcomed by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST), Industry Super Australia and the SMSF Association.

AIST CEO Tom Garcia said “the super savings gap between women and men at retirement is a complex problem so we are very pleased to see that the Inquiry’s terms of reference – with cross-party support – are necessarily broad and deep.”

“We strongly welcome a review of how the super system can better deliver for Australian women,” said Robbie Campo, Deputy Chief Executive of Industry Super Australia.

“We have repeatedly asked policy-makers to consider how to address the issues underpinning this inequality, such as women experiencing broken work patterns because of time taken out of the workforce to have children, and will eagerly participate in this process in anticipation of some viable solutions being found,” said SMSF Association CEO Andrea Slattery.

The Committee is due to report by the first sitting day in March 2016. The closing date for submissions is the 30th of October 2015.

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