Women contend with unpaid super to the tune of $1.8 billion – new research

Posted: Wednesday 08 March, 2017

On International Women’s Day, new research shows that women are contending with unpaid superannuation entitlements on top of the gender pay gap.

An Industry Super Australia analysis of the latest ATO data reveals that women working for wages and eligible for the SG were underpaid $1.84 billion in super contributions by their employers in 2013-14.

The average underpayment was $1,550.

The analysis shows that, as a result, these women had superannuation balances that were 34 per cent or around a third lower than those who were paid correctly.  This suggests that underpayment of superannuation entitlements persists for many years amongst women in at-risk industries such as retail and hospitality.

Industry Super public affairs manager Sarah Saunders said: “The failure of some employers to pay working women their super entitlements is a disgrace”.

“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”.

The analysis also found that the superannuation balances for women working for wages nearing retirement (aged 55 to 64) were shockingly low.

Around 50 per cent had less than $94,050 and 30 per cent had less than $53,760. The comparable estimates for men aged 55 to 64 were $154,300 and $83,050.

“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,” she said.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the pay gap between men and women has hovered between 15 and 19 per cent for twenty years.

Every worker over the age of 18 earning more than $450 (gross) a month is legally entitled to the 9.5 per cent Superannuation Guarantee (SG).

To tackle unpaid SG, Industry Super is recommending monthly payments; the extension of single touch payroll requirements to businesses with fewer than 20 employees; and an increase in the SG to 12 per cent. A senate inquiry into unpaid SG is due to report on 22 March.

The Industry Super data comes from an official Australian Taxation Office dataset for 2013-14.

Sarah Saunders is available for interview. Media contact: Phil Davey 0414 867 18

Industry Super Australia provides policy, research and advocacy on behalf of 15 not-for-profit Industry SuperFunds who are the custodians of the retirement savings of five million Australians.