Older women continue to face financial hardships

Addressing the gender inequity should become a top priority for both government and business as many older Australian women continued to suffer financial hardships, according to Aware Super.

Speaking to mark Equal Pay Day, which is 31 August, Aware’s chief executive, Deanne Stewart, said it was disappointing that, rather than shrinking, the gender pay gap had grown over the past 12 months, as pay disparity was one of a series of factors that meant many older women faced increasing levels of poverty in retirement.

According to Aware Super, Australian women, on average, would have to work following the end of the financial year to earn the equivalent annual pay to men.

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“Last year, women would have had to work an extra 59 days, and two years ago it was 58 days,” Stewart said.

“It’s deeply concerning that despite the heavy focus on this issue in recent years, the gap is getting wider. We can no longer afford to just tinker around the edges.

“Real, lasting structural change is the only way we will address gender inequity now and for generations to come.”

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the national gender pay gap was 14.2%, up 0.8 percentage points over the past six months and by comparison, a year ago, it was 14%.

According to Stewart, who is the WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador, the pay gap had a deep and lasting impact on women, affecting their ability to spend, save and invest during their working lives and in retirement.

“Recent data shows more than 400,000 women over the age of 45 are at risk of homelessness,” Stewart said.

“This supports Aware Super’s own research earlier this year that showed more than one in four women worry they will have nowhere to live in their retirement.

“Our own modelling also shows that an average female member would need to work five extra years to retire on the same income as a male counterpart.”

Stewart said the financial hardship endured by many older women also highlighted the important role of improving financial literacy, as well as supportive education, guidance and advice in helping women achieve better retirement outcomes.

According to polling carried out by Aware Super earlier this year, more than 60% of women believed they would not have enough money to retire when they want to and have a comfortable retirement.

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