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Government called out on forgotten measures in women's funding package

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Eva Scheerlinck, CEO of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, says she is disappointed recommendations put forward to assist women reach stable retirement were not included in the federal government’s Women’s Economic Security Statement, announced yesterday.

She told Nest Egg that although the package is welcomed by the AIST for its focus on improving women’s access to the workforce and ability to achieve economic independence, including in the wake of domestic violence, it failed to address the barriers facing women when accumulating retirement savings.

“The minister's statement focused on three things: workplace participation, earning potential and economic independence, all of which really come to a head in retirement and superannuation really is a big part of that,” she said.

“We were disappointed in terms of there not being a real focus on what retirement looks like for women, and building a stronger package around security for women when it comes to their retirement.”

The package, known as the Women’s Economic Security Statement, will see $109 million dedicated to services financially assisting women leaving situations of abuse and/or working to improve the gender pay gap.

Prior to the announcement of the package, the AIST was calling for the government to include a number of measures designed to grow women’s superannuation savings and reduce the gap between men and women when it comes to their retirement nest egg.

“We had been advocating for a package of measures that we think would provide women with greater economic security in retirement,” Ms Scheerlinck said.

The key measures that AIST has been pushing for that did not make the package included: the abolition of the $450 monthly income threshold for compulsory super payments, a minimum Ms Scheerlinck said many women do not meet due to having multiple part time jobs; being paid superannuation on parental leave, which she highlights is the only type of leave not subject to super payments; offering low income earners, many of which are women, an additional contribution from the government; and a commitment to 12 per cent compulsory super, which Ms Scheerlinck said would be “the single measure that will have the biggest impact in terms of trying to lift retirement savings for women”.

Ms Scheerlinck said it is disillusioning that, as of yet, the government has not implemented any such measures and the Women’s Economic Security Statement was a missed opportunity to improve women’s retirement outcomes.

“We’ve been in discussions with both the government and the opposition about what we would like to see implemented to provide greater security for women when it comes to their retirement, and we’ve been talking about this since the Senate inquiry into women’s economic security in retirement. That inquiry was done quite a number of years ago, and these measures that we’re proposing align with the recommendations that came out of that inquiry,” she said.

Ms Scheerlinck highlighted AIST’s support for the measures relating to super enclosed in the package, particularly the early access to superannuation for victims of domestic violence. However, she affirmed the need for government to outline clear criteria for the individual’s that can access such super as well as guidelines on how such super will be delivered.

“The devil is always in the details around these things and how they’re framed legislatively,” she said.

“But I’m assuming that what this is not allowing for women to take, in those situations, all of their savings in their superannuation, but to be able to access some of it to be able to get themselves into safe housing and put food on the table for their children.

“This is a positive move, though we need to ensure that the immediate needs of domestic violence do not compromise long-term economic security in retirement.”

Ms Scheerlinck said the measures AIST has put forward to government, if implemented, may help to ensure such vulnerable women achieve economic stability, as they would receive assistance in building their superannuation again after an early withdrawal.

She said implementing such measures would benefit women who had drawn on their super to escape violence and need to build it again

“Victims of domestic or family violence would also have more in their super to be able to draw from, should those measures be implemented,” Ms Scheerlinck highlighted.

“We understand the measures that we’re talking about will cost the government some money and that they need to be financed somehow, but there are ways around that. We can find the money in other areas and try to promote better equity for women in retirement.”

For more information about what is included in the Women’s Economic Security Statement click here

Government called out on forgotten measures in women's funding package
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