Super gender gap remains ‘disheartening’: Morningstar

7 March 2023
| By Jasmine Siljic |
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The significant difference in women’s average superannuation account balances, compared to their male counterparts, continues to concern industry professionals. 

New data released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) for the December 2022 quarter indicated that the super gap continued to disproportionately affect women aged 45-60 years old.

Those aged 55-59 years old exhibited the largest difference between super balances, with a gap of $44,400 (or 30%) between men and women.

“Lower overall balances for women, who have a longer life expectancy, is not a good news story,” said Annika Bradley, Morningstar’s director of manager research ratings.

This was largely attributable to the full impact of child-rearing responsibilities and the compounded lifetime effect of lower paid work, she noted. 

Super funds HESTA, as well as Mercer, had highlighted this discrepancy in their 2023-24 pre-Budget submissions, recognising that super contributions on paid parental leave could lead to a super balance increase of 3.7% to over 11% for mothers.

“The average female account balance per age bracket compared to the average male
is disheartening,” Bradley added. 

The figures paralleled recent data from Australian Seniors, which found that 44% of women aged over 50 had strong concerns about the rising cost of living. In addition, women were less likely to feel like they had a plan B for retirement if a recession were to occur. 

Other notable differences between super balances were those aged 50-54, with a $37,600 gap. For women aged 60-64, their balances were $41,200 less than men the same age. 

Those aged 65 and older recorded a less significant difference between men and women’s balances, but Bradley argued this was still concerning.

“Don’t get too excited that the gap reduces markedly from 65 years onwards; this is likely attributable to women outliving men and subsequent account balance transfers to female widows.” 

Additionally, women weren’t featured as prominently in the higher end of the account balance spectrum. Only 50,000 women held accounts with a balance greater than $1 million, compared to 100,000 men with this amount in super. 

However, the silver lining in APRA’s data was the fact that the number of women acting as trustees on super boards was displaying an upward trend.  

Over 40 funds had women representing more than 30% of board seats, which was a significant increase from previous years. Notable examples would include Aware Super’s board director Jocelyn Furlan alongside independent director and chair of the board, Sam Mosty.

Moreover, women on Australian Retirement’s Trust (ART) board included Beth Mohle acting as deputy chair and Linda Apelt, employer representative director.

Morningstar’s Bradley recognised that solutions to the super gender gap would not be simple. As board representation levels improved, this would further support women taking up roles in the superannuation field. 

She added: “The industry obviously cannot solve this issue in isolation. We need all Australians, including the government, to lean in and tackle this ongoing and complex societal issue”. 

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Submitted by anon on Fri, 08/25/2023 - 12:49

For a different picture, extend the measuring of superannuation balances from retirement to end of life. The observation in the retirement village in which I live is that women end up with 80% of all super.

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