Women more likely to retire in poverty: study

Women make up 35 per cent of the full-time workforceWomen’s pay packets are an average 18.


8 per cent less than menFemale university graduates earn on average $3,000 less a yearWomen spend almost twice as much time on unpaid workJust 20.4 per cent of ASX 200 board members are female

The ANZ Women’s Report, Barriers to Achieving Gender Equality, found that full-time working women earn on average $295 per week less than men, equating to $15,000 dollars less a year and $700,000 less over the course of a career.

Women’s Agenda editor Georgina Dent told SBS that the report is a comprehensive snapshot of where Australia stands in terms of women’s representation and participation in the workforce.

“It’s all visible there, that we actually have quite a substantial structural problem in facilitating women participating in the workforce to the extent that they could,” she said.

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The report found women are more likely to retire in poverty, with 90 per cent retiring with inadequate savings.

Ms Dent said there needs to be a shift in societal attitudes.

“We need to stop short of saying that the super gap or the retirement gap is because of the individual choices women have made,” she said.

“We’ve got a structural problem in our workplaces, in our society that is perpetuating this inequality.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told the ABC it’s an issue that must be addressed.

“Many women will live in poverty in retirement because of the gender pay gap but also because they’ve taken time out to care and particularly care for children and care for parents,” she said.

“So what we’ve started to do is reframe this issue and start to ask ‘is poverty to be the reward for a lifetime spent caring’.”

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has also commented, asking why there is still significant inequality in the workplace.

“Australian girls start their lives with equal access to education and all of the opportunities that that brings,” she said.

“So what goes wrong? Why is it that as soon as girls leave the education system, their prospects start to diminish.”

‘I really believe we need to introduce quotas’

Some observers have pointed out that the gender pay gaps shown in the report broadly reflect the gender inequalities in the corporate board rooms of Australia.

Whitney Fitzsimmons – Board Director of gender equality organisation, the 100 Percent Project – said she’d like to see quotas implemented in the corporate world in Australia.

“I really believe that we need a mechanism that is introduced to change the behavior in Australia and I really believe we need to introduce quotas,” she said.

“I don’t think a meritocracy is working.”