6 May 2021

Canberra women fight back against massive super gender gap

| Dominic Giannini
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Alicia Payne

Canberra MP Alicia Payne co-hosted the Women’s Forum over the weekend. Photo: Georgia Leak.

Massive discrepancies in superannuation at retirement and the number of single mothers living below the poverty line struck a chord with Canberra women, with dozens speaking out at a women’s forum where anger and frustration were palpable.

Industry Super Australia (ISA) data has revealed that women living in inner Canberra suburbs had around $400,000 less in super than men by the time they reached their 60s.

Women between 60 and 64 living in inner Canberra retired with around $180,000, less than a third of what men had ($575,000).

Across the whole of the ACT, the discrepancy between men and women’s super balances shrunk, but women still had around $200,000 less than their male counterparts by the time they reach their 60s.

Men had around $430,000 at that time compared to women, who only had $230,000.

One-in-three women retire with no super balance at all, ISA noted, citing a 2016 Senate report.

The Federal Member for Canberra, Alicia Payne, said that women’s economic security was intrinsically linked with their safety.

“Older women have the fastest-growing rate of homeless, and we have too high a rate of poverty for older women,” she said.

Ms Payne co-hosted the women’s forum over the weekend with ACT Senator and former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, and they were inundated with concerns from Canberrans.

People of all ages, cultures and linguistic backgrounds took to the microphone to share their personal experiences and offer suggestions about how governments can make society more inclusive for women.

Better support for victims of domestic violence, especially after they leave violent homes and try to re-enter the workforce, was a major concern, as was better mental health support for victims.

Coercive control – where victims are subjected to controlling behaviour from their partner, including restricted access to money – was evident in 99 per cent of cases reviewed by the NSW Coroners Court between 2017 and 2019.

A lack of support and resources put women in abusive relationships at a disadvantage, leaving them with nowhere to go and no money for accommodation or food.

Those who do manage to leave can then find themselves in financial hardship down the track. More than one-in-three single mothers were living in poverty across the country, Ms Payne said.

One woman at the forum said issues like this highlight the economic dependency created by pay gaps and time out of the workforce to have children. She savaged suggestions from the Federal Government that domestic violence survivors be able to access $10,000 from their superannuation.

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Ms Payne also called on the Federal Government to re-commit to funding homelessness services, which includes women shelters, in the upcoming Budget.

The Commonwealth has faced mounting pressure from community organisations to produce a budget that focuses on women’s economic security following the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women.

The Federal Government has already announced a $1.7 billion, three-year childcare subsidy expansion, which will reduce childcare costs for second and subsequent children in care.

However, the scheme will not impact parents with a single child and does not come into effect until June 2022, making it more of an election pledge than immediate relief for single mothers, some commentators noted.

The Federal Budget will be handed down on 11 May.

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I think it’s unfair that people who work more years than I do, in jobs that pay more than mine does, end up having more money in retirement.

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