Are we closing the stubborn superannuation gap?

Rebecca Thistleton, McKell Institute Victoria Executive Director

Guaranteeing Women’s Super: How to close the gap in superannuation was a 2017 report from the McKell Institute that identified eight ways to tackle gender inequity in super.

As the report authors Tristan and Edward Cavanough noted, superannuation policy had always been gender-blind, and without change, would continue to leave women disadvantaged.

Their recommendations, all costed, focused on extending the super guarantee to government payments that did not receive super, and included other practical ways that government policy could correct the superannuation gap.

The first recommendation was for the government to pay super on paid parental leave.

So we were thrilled this week, ahead of International Women’s Day, when the Minister for Finance and Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, announced the Albanese Government would introduce superannuation payments on the government’s paid parental leave scheme from July 1, 2025.

Senator Gallagher also released Australia’s first national strategy to gender equality, Working for Women.

The strategy notes women aged 60 to 65 retire with 25.1 per cent less superannuation than men the same age.

It’s been six years since our Guaranteeing Women’s Super report – let’s revisit those recommendations and look at where things are at, and where more work needs to be done.

Recommendation 1:

Pay new parents receiving Commonwealth paid parental leave a superannuation contribution up to the equivalent of 12 per cent of the annual minimum wage.

This would increase the average women’s superannuation by around $12,500 at retirement, and would benefit 165,000 women.

Status: From 1 July 2025, the Commonwealth will pay superannuation on paid parental leave.

The scheme is now gender-neutral, allowing parents to take four weeks each and share 18 weeks based on what works best for their family.

This is a big win that unions, industry superannuation funds, industry groups and think tanks like ours have been calling for.

Recommendation 2: Pay superannuation at the scheduled rate of 12 per cent on Commonwealth parenting payments.

About 356,000 people receive parenting payments, which do not include superannuation. In 2017, 95.6 per cent of these recipients were women.

Less than 20 per cent of those recipients earned more than $250 a fortnight in employment income, meaning they effectively go without any superannuation.

For a woman in her 30s, this annual super payment would be worth about $7500 at retirement.

Recommendation 3: Pay superannuation at the scheduled rate of 12 per cent on Commonwealth carer payments.

Women who extend their time out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities face an extended period without any super contributions.

This policy would benefit 264,000 Australians and improve their superannuation by about $9000 for every year they receive a carer’s allowance.

Recommendation 4: Remove the $450 per month threshold before employers must pay the superannuation guarantee.

Women disproportionately find themselves in this earning bracket, particularly while doing short term work or occasional contracting during early motherhood.

The ATO believes this would simplify employers paperwork, countering the argument in favour of the threshold.

While this measure seems small, for a woman working odd jobs over four years, this could boost her retiring super balance by $6400.

Status: Done.

Recommendation 5: Allow joint superannuation accounts for couples.

This measure is well worth considering as part of a broader reform package because it would reduce fees and help compound savings for some couples.

Recommendation 6: Mandate that all super funds allow automated account consolidation through the MyGov system.

Status: Done.

This has allowed people to keep track of their superannuation accounts and consolidate online.

Recommendation 7: Implementing a Super Gender Parity Target

A Super Gender Parity Target should be legislated.

Such a commitment should be paired with additional resources help agencies like the like the ATO and the ABS monitor progress of reforms aimed at closing the super gender gap.

This would demonstrate the government’s commitment to closing the superannuation gender gap.

Status: More to be done.

We applaud the release of Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality.

Economic equality and security is listed Priority Area 3 in the strategy, and aims to close the gender pay gap and the retirement income gender gap.

As part of its future directions, the strategy also highlights the need to narrow retirement age income gender gaps in relation to the gendered nature of unpaid care work.

However, the strategy stops short of setting a measurable target.


Recommendation 8: The Commonwealth Government must be more proactive in overseeing and enforcing the Superannuation Guarantee, with stronger penalties for repeat violators.

We are still seeing some workers not receiving their due superannuation. Some employers capitalise on their workers’ ignorance around superannuation entitlements.

Government agencies must prioritise this violation, and direct more resources towards combating it.

Status: Done.

Superannuation theft was included in the government’s Closing the Loopholes Bill that will allow wage theft to finally be criminalised.

The government has also introduced payday super. From July 1, 2026, employers will be required to pay super at the same time salary and wages are paid.