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‘Unacceptable’: unpaid care work goes unvalued

unpaid care work goes unvalued

Until Australia values the unpaid work done by parents, and predominantly mothers, the superannuation gap will persist, Industry Super Australia has said.

Speaking to mark International Women’s Day – recognised today the group said that even if the gender pay gap was closed, the superannuation gap will remain.

That’s because women tend to take more time off work when they have children, and as such lose superannuation monies and subsequent interest.

Commenting on this, Industry Super head of consumer advocacy Sarah Saunders said, “While a woman might return to a good salary after time out to care for a child or an ageing parent, she will have little chance of ever making up the super shortfall.

“That women today face 30 years in retirement with half as much super as men – because the system doesn’t put an economic value on unpaid care is unacceptable.

“Business and government policy must better reflect how women transition in and out of paid employment. Examples include flexible working hours, more accessible childcare, and super on parental leave and casual or part-time work”.

According to Industry Super Australia’s analysis of ABS data, for workers of the same age and income, the superannuation gap for those 25-34 is 14.7 per cent.

However, by the time Australians are 55-64, those on the same income are facing a superannuation gap of 47.4 per cent.

“The super shortfall highlights the importance of ensuring that the age pension safety net keeps pace with living standards by continuing to link it to wages rather than CPI,” Ms Saunders said.

The analysis, carried out by Industry Super special adviser and former Treasury modelling head Phil Gallagher, revealed that in 2015-16, the median super balance for a 55 to 64-year-old man was $166,339. For their female counterparts, it was $96,011.

Carers Australia figures also show that in 2015 women made up more than two-thirds of the nation’s 2.7 million unpaid primary carers.

The Industry Super data suggested that the calculated replacement value of unpaid care in 2015 would be more than $60 million.

Breaking it down

The superannuation gap increases with age, Industry Super Australia noted, arguing that this could reflect continuity of employment.

While those between 20 and 24 are looking at a gap of 13 per cent, it jumps to 39 per cent at 40 and then to 65 per cent at 60.

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer acknowledged the gap on Tuesday during a speech at the National Press Club.

Ms O’Dwyer said the solution could come in the form of greater workplace flexibility for all, and especially female, workers.

She said, “What we need to do is ensure all Australians have the flexibility needed to fully participate in the workforce; we need to switch the setting where child care and family are automatically considered a woman’s principal responsibility.

“The number of men who work part-time has changed little over the past 10 years. According to the ABS, 10 years ago, 84 per cent of men worked full-time and only 16 per cent worked part-time. Today, the figures are 81 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively – still a huge gap.

“Just like there are targets for women on boards and in leadership positions – why aren’t there targets for men working part-time? What are the barriers?

“The fact that more women take time out from paid work to look after family has a very real impact on their financial security in later life.”

‘Unacceptable’: unpaid care work goes unvalued
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