The chief executive of Australia’s largest superannuation fund says the gender imbalance when it comes to unpaid caregiving work is “absolutely disgusting” as he backed reforms designed to help close the gender super gap.
AustralianSuper chief Paul Schroder told industry leaders at a Women in Super lunch on Tuesday that the negative impact on the super balances of women who take on more caring responsibilities must be urgently addressed.
“The disproportionate carrying of caring by women relative to men, it’s not only just disproportionate, but it’s absolutely disgusting frankly,” he said.
AustralianSuper chief Paul Schroder says women should be compensated for taking on greater caring responsibilities.Credit:Jason South
“If you’re carrying more caring, you’re more likely to be away from work. If you’re carrying more caring, you’re more likely to take a job that allows you to be away from work.
“We have to keep pushing … if the caring is not going to be carried fairly then we need to compensate for that because that seems to me to be the biggest driver of the worst outcomes for women’s balances.”
Schroder told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that he backed Women in Super’s policy framework, which was released on Tuesday. It calls for a carers credit framework (which exists in the UK), paying superannuation on paid parental leave, and aligning the low income super tax offset with pay-as-you-go thresholds.
The industry body is also calling for a $1000 super payment for low-income workers aged over 25 until their balances reach $100,000 to address the lack of super tax support for the majority of working women.
Women in Super’s research has found that women on average retire with almost a third less super than men, and women spend 64 per cent of their “working hours” with no remuneration, compared with 36 per cent for men.
“Any time you have leave from work, you’re not having a superannuation contribution made. And that’s to the detriment of your balance,” Schroder said.
“We’re completely alert to the fiscal constraints that governments are under, and businesses, but unless we solve that problem, we’ll end up continuing the problem of women having low balances.”
He told the conference that superannuation is “universal but not universally fair”.
“Super is a brilliant thing linked to your employment, for a whole host of logical reasons, but when you link something to employment you are embedding the advantage or the disadvantage of employment, and the advantage and disadvantage of employment is mostly structural and cultural and systemic.”
Aware Super chief Deanne Stewart said 40 per cent of people calling their fund’s help line have been single women. Stewart said one womanwho had called started her career as a nurse in aged care, took time off work to have three children, and recently separated from her husband. She’s now on the verge of homelessness and struggling to pay rent.
“I wish this was a one-off but we see this again and again,” she said. “It absolutely starts with the undervaluing of caring roles in society. So calling that out and thinking about things like carers payments, for example, number one, but also there’s a wage gap… so it starts there.”
She said there were other factors that were beyond the control of superannuation funds, such as housing and childcare affordability.
“Neither of them are directly superannuation, but also having a voice and really getting behind on that as well, I think is really critical,” she said.
Schroder said there was now good dialogue between all parties in parliament about how these structural inequalities can be remedied.
“What’s going on here for women’s balances is very serious and needs to be addressed,” he said.
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