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Government Policies On Employment And Superannuation: Contradictions And Consequences For Older Australians

By Dr Sukhan Jackson and Nerina Vecchio

Abstract

Older women today are most likely to live on limited incomes and are more dependent on the age pension than men. This paper examines the Federal government's employment policies that have reduced older women's opportunities to save for retirement and the government's attempt in recent years to equalise women's economic status. These policies also discouraged the participation of women in the paid workforce and confined them to low paid, part time, casual employment. Up until 1988 very few superannuation schemes allowed part time and casual workers to join or retain membership. As Superannuation Guarantee Charge is based on continuous paid work people in unpaid work, such as household chores and caring, are excluded. The principle of self-reliance as reflected in the Home and Community Care programme will further erode women's employment opportunities since it relies on unpaid carers, who are mostly women. Recently the gender gap has narrowed owing to increased Federal funding for childcare, the equal pay case, affirmative action and the universal superannuation provisions that bridge broken work patterns. However these come too late for today's older women. The past inequalities experienced by Australian women are now amplified during their retirement. Many older women today are the major recipients of the very institution that contributed to their lower economic status.

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