Women and Super

The gender gap

The facts

Australian women generally have significantly less superannuation savings than men.

The most recent assessment of superannuation balances released in December 20151 showed that:

  • The average superannuation account balance2 for women was $54,916, compared to $98,535 for men.
  • The average superannuation balance at the time of retirement3 was $292,500 for men and only $138,150 for women.
  • Men held around 63.6% of total superannuation account balances, compared to 36.4% for women.
Source: The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, Superannuation account balances by age and gender (2015) written by Ross Clare, Director of Research, ASFA at http://www.superannuation.asn.au/policy/reports

1 Data from 2013-14   2 For all persons 15 years of age and over   3 Assumed to be between 60 to 64 years of age

The figures

Average male and female super balances by age in Australia (2013-2014)

Average Male and Female super balances by age in Australia

Female balances as a percentage of male balances (2013-2014)

Female balances as a % of Male balances
Source: The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, Superannuation account balances by age and gender (Report released: December 2015) written by Ross Clare, Director of Research, ASFA at http://www.superannuation.asn.au/policy/reports

Why is there a gap?

There are many issues that have led to the superannuation gender gap.

Less pay

Statistically, Australian women earn an average of 18%1 less than men in full-time employment. If you consider part-time employment, this gap widens to a difference of 35%.

This pay gap means many women cannot accumulate as much wealth, have less choice about their lifestyles and have significantly lower superannuation balances than men.

Career breaks

Many Australian women have had a career break at some stage, to care for children or to care for elderly parents, for example. So many women have not been in the workforce long enough to accumulate a sizeable superannuation balance.

Contribution restrictions

An employee may not have to make Superannuation Guarantee contributions (the compulsory contribution employers make on behalf of an employee) if the employee:

  • earns less than $450 per month
  • is under age 18 and works 30 hours or less per week
  • is paid to do domestic or private work of 30 hours or less per week

These conditions mean that many women miss out on compulsory superannuation because they often work part time in lower paying jobs.

There are also restrictions on the amount of money you can put into your superannuation account each year (contribution caps). This means that women who return to the workforce after a career break are limited in the amount they can contribute to ‘catch up’ on their superannuation savings.

1 According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics www.abs.gov.au

Closing the gap

Retirement may seem like a long way off, but there are some small things that you can do now that will help ‘close the gap’ and give you the financial freedom you deserve in retirement.

Put your super in one place

Having more than one super account may cost you money and time. By finding all your super accounts and putting them together you may:

  • save on fees
  • keep track of your super more easily
  • have less paperwork

If you’re a First State Super member you can use our Search & Combine tool to help track down and consolidate1 your super accounts.

Consolidate your super

Add a little extra

You don’t need a lot of spare cash to start a regular savings plan. Even if it’s only $5 to $10 a week, the important thing is to get into the habit of saving regularly early on. Because the earlier you start saving, the more you will accumulate. Plus you get the benefit of compounding; this means that over time you start to earn interest on your interest.

You can make additional contributions before-tax (concessional contributions) or after-tax (non-concessional contributions). Depending on your level of income, you could save on the amount of tax you pay by making concessional contributions through salary sacrifice or you could give you savings a boost with non-concessional contributions.

Find out more about making additional contributions and the limits for both concessional and non-concessional contributions.

Make additional contributions

Contribute even when you’re not working

It’s a common misconception that you must be working to contribute to super however, this is not the case. Up to age 65 you, or your spouse, can contribute to your super account even if you’re not currently in the paid workforce.

You could do this by:

  • having your spouse make contributions to your account (learn more)
  • moving some other investments, such as term deposits, into your super account.

Consider low income super options

If you earn less than $54,454 p.a. you may be eligible to receive a government co-contribution. For every dollar that you add to your super account, up to $1,000, the government will contribute 50c to give your super a boost.

Take a look at the Super co-contribution calculator to see if you’re eligible and how much the government will boost your super by.

Super co-contribution calculator
1 Before withdrawing your super from any fund, please check to see whether the fund you are leaving charges any exit fees or other withdrawal penalties and consider the implications. Also find out whether you will lose any insurance cover, because this may leave you and your family exposed to unnecessary risk.