When it comes to superannuation, Australian women are still playing catch up.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women are retiring with 37% less than men in their super accounts, which is a frightening thought considering women, on average, live up to five years longer.


So, what’s behind the super gap?

The super gap is partly due to the lower average earnings of women, data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reports that the full-time remuneration gender pay gap in Australia is 21.3% compared to males. While many have blamed the “wage gap” on gender, Harvard Business Review research suggests women ‘ask’ for pay rises as much as men do, however, they are far less likely to actually get them.

The study also suggests that while men are successful in negotiating a pay rise 20% of the time, women were only successful 15% of the time (despite both genders’ concern about damaging their relationships in the workplace).

The second reason for the super gap, is that women typically take time out of the workforce to raise children. The absence of ongoing superannuation contributions can have a significant impact on the final amount women can end up within super.


What can be done to address the super gap?

One of the simplest ways to catch up on lost super contributions is to make additional contributions to super along the way. Small amounts over longer periods of time may be easier to commit to, for example, making additional contributions may be enough to narrow the gap caused by taking time out of the workforce.

If you are getting closer to retirement, you may consider maximising the amount you are contributing each year in concessional contributions up to the $25,000 limit. Keep in mind, that any contribution you do make to super will be preserved, and unable to be accessed until you meet a condition of release from super. Most commonly this would be reaching your preservation age and then retiring.

Also, it is worth considering if you are in an appropriate super fund, which meets your needs, including the level of insurance cover you have and whether you need to reduce this or if you even need this cover. Consider the fee structure of the super fund and also pay attention to how your super is being invested, for example – if you have a long time until retirement, you may benefit from increasing your exposure to growth assets.

For women in relationships, a super contribution sharing could help close the retirement gap. This is because your spouse can split up to 85% of their concessional contributions each year with you. Further, if you earn less than $40,000 per annum, your spouse may be eligible for a tax offset of up to $540 for a $3,000 contributions (made with after-tax money).


Four tips to closing the super gap:

  1. See how your salary compares with those doing a similar role and seek out regular reviews.
  2. Consider whether making additional contributions may help bridge any super gap.
  3. Take control of your super as soon as possible; little changes early can potentially make a big difference in the long-term.
  4. Consider seeking professional Financial Planning advice to enhance all these strategies and many more to bridge the super gap.


ABS – Media Release – Slow growth at the top, but big challenges remain for gender equality

WHO – Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

WGEA – Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics

HBR – Research: Women Ask for Raises as Often as Men, but Are Less Likely to Get Them

ATO – myTax 2020 Superannuation contributions on behalf of your spouse



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