Women were underpaid $1.84 billion in superannuation in 2013/14, according to Industry Super Australia analysis of the latest ATO data.
The average underpayments works out to $1,550. This is in addition to the gender pay gap, and only relates to women eligible for Superannuation Guarantee.
Industry Super Australia (ISA) says this means the women who were underpaid had superannuation balances 34% lower than those who were paid correctly, suggesting that super underpayment persists for many years in “at-risk industries such as retail and hospitality”.
“The failure of some employers to pay working women their super entitlements is a disgrace,” said Industry Super public affairs manager Sarah Saunders.
“Women already struggle with a gender pay gap that has barely shifted for two decades, and an earnings-linked superannuation system that shows no forgiveness for people with interrupted work histories,” she said.
“Today, 40 per cent of single older women, forced to face the vagaries of the rental market, live in poverty. These new figures suggest Australia is a long way from sorting this out,” said Saunders.
“We need employers who offer flexibility, equal pay and family leave; a government whose tax structures and social policies are seen through the lens of equality; and a society that refuses to accept the feminisation of poverty.”
“The government can start by enshrining ‘dignity’ and ‘security’ for all Australians in the objective of superannuation.”
The analysis also found that the super balances of women working for wages and nearing retirement, ages 55-64, were “shockingly low”. Around 50% of this group had balances under $94,050, and 30% had less than $53,760. 50% of men of similar ages had balances under $154,300, 30% had $83,050 or less.
Industry Super Australia recommends several measures to address unpaid Super Guarantee, including monthly payments and extending Single Touch Payroll to small businesses.