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Australia scores 96% on gender equality. Here’s the one thing we get wrong

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There are only six countries in the world where women have completely equal rights to men, according to a decade-long study from the World Bank.

Australia isn’t one of them, but we’re close.

Australia scores 96.88 out of 100 on equality, the Women, Business and the Law 2019 Study from the World Bank revealed, on par with Iceland and Serbia and slightly below Canada, the UK, Spain, Finland, Greece and Portugal.

The only countries to score a perfect 100 were Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Where did we go wrong?

Countries were measured on eight fronts: going places, starting a job, getting paid, getting married, having children, running a business, managing assets and getting a pension.

Australia scored 100 on all fronts bar one: getting a pension.

This is despite Australian men and women having the same pension and retirement ages.

The issue comes earlier.

In order to achieve a perfect 100, we’d need to be able to answer yes to this one question: “Does the law establish explicit pension care credits for periods of childcare?”

Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t.

Despite Australian women shouldering the majority of the child-care burden, their superannuation is offered little support in their years away from the paid workforce.

A recent PwC report put the value of women’s unpaid childcare work at $345 billion. Women conduct 76 per cent of unpaid childcare, the same PwC analysis found.

Regardless of the economic heavy-lifting performed by Australia’s carers, a woman’s time spent away from the paid workforce means their superannuation balances don’t increase and can even decrease as fees rack up.

It means the benefit of compounding interest is lessened and women retire with a lot less in super.

In fact, Australian women retire with an average 37 per cent less in super than their male counterparts, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

However other firms, like Dixon Advisory, put this figure closer to 50 per cent.

This gap is significantly larger than the gender pay gap of 14.6 per cent, although closer to the 21.3 per cent total remuneration gap.

Industry Super said women are more likely to take a career break to raise a family.

While the super gap between women and men between 20 to 24 is relatively small ($5,022 compared to $5,924), that gap skyrockets to nearly $10,000 for those between 30 and 34, with the average woman holding $33,748 in super to the average man’s $43,538, figures from the peak super body ASFA record.

It continues widening until it reaches $113,380 for Australians between 55 and 59. At this age, most women have only $123,642 in super, compared to men’s $237,022.

“By missing just five years of work from age 29 to 34, the average woman is estimated to miss out on almost $100,000 of their potential retirement savings,” Industry Super warned, calling for superannuation to be paid on parental leave – just as it is on most other types of leave.

Australians are currently allowed to make “catch-up” concessional contributions to their super provided they have balances of less than $500,000 in super. This means Australians with disrupted earnings periods are able to make extra contributions of up to $25,000 before the beginning of the new financial year.

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