Less Now Means Even Less Later: Why the Gender Pay Gap is also robbing our retirement savings

by Verve

Imagine working hard your entire life, juggling careers, family, and countless challenges, only to reach retirement and realise your financial security is a fraction of your male counterparts. This is not some Barbie dystopian nightmare — it’s the reality for many Australian women+, and it’s high time we do something about it.

Right now in Australia, women are entering retirementment age with approximately 25% less super savings than men, with the gap starting to widen from age 30 onwards. . For women aged 30-34, the super gap is slightly lower at 22.6%, while it’s as high as 47.8% for women aged 55-59. That’s not just a gap; it’s a chasm, and one that widens with every unpaid childcare hour, every part-time paycheck, and every career break to nurture others, often at the cost of our own financial security.So, what’s the Superannuation Gap and how can we stop it from Margot Robbie-ing your future?

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

A frequent flyer in the news headlines, the Gender Pay Gap represents the systemic, pervasive discrepancy in remuneration and lifetime earnings between women and men. It’s important, it’s egregious, and it’s horrifying — but it’s not the only gap we need to be talking about. Because not only do the majority of women+ spend a lifetime earning less, they are retiring with less too while having to stretch those pennies further. 

In a system where the super we’re guaranteed is based on how much we earn (currently 11% of your salary, soon to be 12% from 1 July 2025), the Gender Pay Gap really is the gift that keeps on giving (or taking, to be honest). 

The marked gap in career earnings is compounded over a lifetime and affects women+ differently at the intersections of ability, educational attainment, race, VISA status, parenthood, and other markers of identity — not to mention what happens if we don’t earn a formal wage at all. And it’s adding up to a devastating effect on the financial health and wellbeing of Australian women+. 

“No other statistic reveals the extent of gender inequality in Australia more simply than the superannuation savings gap between men and women.” — Christina Hobbs, Verve founder (Make Our Future Fair Report)

The gap between the retirement savings of men and women+ in this country often equates to the difference between independence and reliance, between comfort and constraint, and between dignity and despair in the twilight years. So, how did we get here?

Is it really a Super System?

Beginning in the 1980s, and made compulsory under the Keating Government in 1992, superannuation is a system that was designed to bolster the welfare system and relieve a tax system, set to buckle under an ageing Boomer population. 

Essentially a ‘forced’ savings system, super is a way to help people fund their own retirement. And for many of us — it’s the largest savings fund we’ll ever have.

While we won’t go into much more detail about how the superannuation system works, or doesn’t work (you can read our FAQ for that) — although it’s great *in theory*, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), because the current superannuation system is linked to paid work, it overwhelmingly disadvantages women

It was established without adequately addressing or accounting for the systemic issues that contribute to gender disparities in the workforce. And as a result, it perpetuates financial inequalities and magnifies the economic inequality that women+ experience throughout their lives. 

So, how can we create a system that’s more equitable, just and fair for all?

What Needs To Change

The way we see it, there is only one way to end the retirement inequality and poverty faced by women+, and that is, to fix the system itself. Systemic change requires a multi-faceted response, and we all have a role to play.

As individuals, it’s about understanding how to put ourselves in the best position possible. According to free education platform Ladies Talk Money, that means getting a handle on what super is and how it works, what fund options exist as well as practical steps to bolster your financial security (no matter what our circumstances look like).

As a society, we need to better recognise, value and compensate both the paid and unpaid work of women+. We need to lobby for more accessible and affordable housing and childcare, and to boost the low-income tax offset. We can also learn from other countries (spoiler: they’re Nordic) whose pension systems are designed to better mitigate the impact of career breaks on retirement savings by offering credits for child-rearing years or caregiving periods.

And as businesses, it’s about taking actionable, tangible steps towards greater equality from hiring practices to normalising people of all genders taking parental leave.

Ready to commit to genuine change? 

Take the Pay Gap Pledge today.

Learn more about Why The Gender Pay Gap is Everyone’s Business, and be sure to sign up to the Verve newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!

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