Gender gap in retirement

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difficulties faced by women being financially independent in old age. It seems I’m not the only one.

Marian Sawyer posted a great article on ABC’s The Drum about women and the 2010 election.  In it she discusses the recent change in the number of women in parliament and the need for a successful ‘women’s policy’. Her argument for this is:

Low pay is just one of the factors contributing to gender inequality and poverty in old age. The skewed distribution of paid and unpaid work is another, with women still far more likely to have interrupted careers in the paid workforce. Men are in the paid workforce for an average of 39 years, women only for 20 years.

The article, and resulting comments, are well worth the read.

The retirement gender pay gap was also reported on in the SheEO Blog, reminding members that women often take time off for raising children, and also typically take time off to support ageing parents. They link to the Australian Human Rights Commission website; where apparently there is movement afoot to address the gender gap in retirement savings:

What is Commissioner Broderick’s plan for reducing the gender gap in retirement savings?

Commissioner Broderick will work with experts to investigate the factors contributing to the gender gap in retirement savings and inform solutions for increasing women’s economic independence over their lifetime.

Australian Human Rights Commission work

Commissioner Broderick is meeting with various experts and community stakeholders in this area to help the Commission develop a project plan. This project will begin in early 2009.

Early 2009 – It would be good to get an update.

This prompted me to see what I could find from some of the political parties. I conducted a quick search by typing “women retirement” into the search fields of their websites.

I can’t find a search function of the Greens website but did find this. Of particular interest are their listed measures 15 and 16:

15 – recognise and give due weight to the work of those involved in homemaking, child raising, caring for the elderly or disabled and working for community organisations by including those activities in the calculation of national economic measures.

16 – introduce an equitable retirement income system that effectively and adequately provides women with financial independence when they retire.

Labor provide a blog on superannuation reforms and a women’s budget statement.

On the Liberal website I get information on the Baby Bonus, paid parental leave and getting women back into the workforce. I am happy to be corrected if anyone can find more detail on Liberal’s policy.

A lot of the detail in the information I found was general and relatively long term. It worries me that this important issue doesn’t get the media it deserves. If I consider the mothers and grandmothers in my life, many without a partner in retirement years, I begin to realise that this is a huge social concern. Poverty in old age is a terrible issue and one that deserves our immediate attention.

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