My Big Hairy Audacious Goal for fairer super

One thing the world is doing right now is examining what is fair. It’s safe to say the framework for how we live is under the microscope. For me – that’s a good thing.

Here in Australia, I am adding my voice to the review of the framework of our compulsory superannuation system. The heart of the matter for every Australian is the ongoing inequality within the Australian retirement landscape. This inequality is closely tied to how we address paying men and women differently, and secondly is how we treat minorities.

When we talk about discrimination or racism – and we see very vivid international examples of this debate right now – the debate can easily focus on physical and mental outcomes. However, what if it was the system itself which is the more insidious and more uncomfortable topic of discrimination – what would we do then? Imagine if the system gamed your mother, your wife, your sister or your daughter – how would you feel contributing to that system then? What about your friends of colour?

Fairness is not an attitude

Let’s start by examining the gender issue. Super policy reform is the goal of Women In Super, established in 1994. It’s hard to believe in 26 years and a Royal Commission, the retirement standards for Australian women, have slipped backwards.

Here are the facts from Women in Super:

  • Women currently retire with 47% less superannuation than men
  • Women live five years longer than men on average
  • Women only receive 1/3 of the government tax concessions on super (men receive the other 2/3)

The statistics are frightening when you couple this with the double whammy of rates of homelessness for women. The fastest-growing group of homeless women is the 65 to 74-year-olds – a cohort that has unfortunately seen rapid growth in homelessness by 51% from 2011 – 2016.

Women often work less in paid employment and miss out on superannuation all together. When you work less, you are paid less, and you retire with less. And if you stop and think about the vital work nurses, cleaners, teachers, age care workers regularly perform, let alone the spectacular job they delivered during COVID-19, you can see why it’s essential for us to make retirement outcomes fairer.

Crunching the numbers

There is no shortage of talented females and people of colour. But there is a shortage employed in leadership positions.

It’s time for the government and businesses to build a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – for change for fairer outcomes. Caring about the community and shining a light on new solutions can be part of the way we move forward. As an actuary, we can crunch the numbers to show that any short term costs are far outweighed by the long term benefits to Australian productivity and outcomes.

How we value women’s and other key workers’pay and retirement outcomes makes sense from an economic perspective and certainly from a humanitarian one. It’s not about skill, nor the level of education – it’s about a fair valuation of the contribution key workers make. It’s about looking beyond our unconscious biases and paying and promoting people fairly.