Media Release by The Hon Julie Collins MP

A day of action on older women’s financial inequality

International Day of Older Persons October 1 should serve as a reminder that too many women in Australia are reaching retirement age with insufficient financial resources.

“Women are particularly vulnerable to financial insecurity and poverty during the years they should not be worrying about money,” Ms Collins said.

“Research shows the average superannuation balance of women is 40 per cent below the average for men.

“Women are also more likely than men to depend on the age pension, making up around 70 per cent of all single age pensioners.

“This reflects the life-long penalty that women incur for their primary caring responsibilities, their broken work patterns and their unequal pay.

“The Australian Government is working hard to improve women’s earning potential now, to make sure future generations of women are better off in their retirement years,” Ms Collins said.

The Gillard Government has taken important steps towards gender equality in the workplace and in improving women’s retirement savings, including:

  • Our reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act to remove barriers to women’s workforce participation and to promote pay equity and workplace flexibility.
  • Our commitment of around $3 billion to meet our fair share of funding for Fair Work Australia’s historic Equal Remuneration Order giving pay rises of between 23 and 45 per cent to 150,000 of Australia’s lowest paid workers – 120,000 of whom are women.
  • Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave Scheme.
  • More affordable and accessible quality child care.
  • Changes to superannuation to boost the retirement savings of women.

“The Low Income Superannuation Contribution alone will benefit 3.6 million low-income Australians – 2.1 million of whom are women,” Ms Collins said.

“The LISC is an important part of the Gillard Government’s major superannuation reforms, which are key in making sure women are prepared for life after paid work.

“Unfortunately, the Abbott Coalition has confirmed their plans to slash the LISC, effectively raising taxes for these 2.1 million Australian women.”

Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan, said older Australians in general faced many financial challenges and struggled with unmet needs – but it was encouraging to see continuing growth in workforce participation by older women.

“Older working women are building up their superannuation,” Ms Ryan said.

“The new Government contribution of $500 per year into the super accounts of low income earners will have a big impact on older women, as will the raising of the tax-free threshold.

“Because of these measures more women will retire with more super to supplement to the age pension.

“Budget incentives to assist employers retain and hire older workers will mean more jobs for women.

“For those who have retired and need care, the huge expansion in the Government’s home based care packages will allow more women to stay at home while they age, clearly the preference of most.

“Finally, the Government in partnership with civil society is taking steps to help older women become computer literate, something that will enhance the quality of their senior years and improve their access to information and services,” Ms Ryan said.

Ms Collins said the Government has committed more than $100 million over four years to encourage employers to recruit and retain mature-age job seekers and to help mature-age people find and keep a job.

“As a Government we will continue our commitment to mature age Australians, ensuring that both women and men are recognised for the significant contribution they continue to make to the community and the economy,” Ms Collins said.