Discussion paper

An overview of the various employer-designed superannuation schemes that existed prior to the introduction of universal superannuation reveals the history of direct and indirect discrimination against women in the provision of retirement saving systems. The slow rate of growth in coverage of Australian women by private superannuation schemes is outlined, and it reveals the historical reliance of women on their partner’s income and retirement savings, and their resulting financial insecurity throughout the twentieth century.

To illustrate the incremental improvements in women’s retirement incomes resulting from the gradual extension of superannuation to women over the last half century, this report tracks the transition from the experiences of the ‘silent generation’, who retired without significant independent superannuation funds, to the ‘baby boomer’ generation who have begun to experience the benefits of superannuation incomes in retirement. This comparison clearly shows the positive impact on women’s financial security of the superannuation revolution.

The report concludes with some recommendations for addressing the gender inequity in retirement incomes that mean Australian women are significantly more likely to live in poverty in older age than are men.


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