Bill's Transcripts

Opinion Piece: The new face of poverty in Australia? Is female

 

The new face of poverty in Australia? Is female  


By MINISTER BILL SHORTEN


One of my favourite things about public life is the Census, the five yearly family photo of our nation.


It tells us remarkable things – how many people speak a made up language at home, how many people are Jedis – but it also shows the shape of the nation now and into the future.


According to the most recent Census, the average Australian is a 37 year old mother of two who works as a shop assistant. If I were writing this 50 years ago, the average Australian would have been a man in his 20s.


There are three key trends reflected in today’s average Australian – as a society we are living longer, and there are more women than men, and we need to do more to promote the financial independence of women.


There are more women now in work than ever before, there are more women graduating from university than men, more women aren’t getting married, or marrying later in life, or choosing not to have children. And more women expect to work for all of their lives.


Those among us who are over 65 now are only 3 million in number, but by 2050 there will be 8.1 million of us.


Today there are fifty of us in work for every ten of us in retirement.


By 2050, there will be twenty-seven of us in work for every ten of us in retirement.


These days we’re probably at school and in college until we’re 20 or 25, and we shall be students retraining our whole adult life.


These are trends which are going to continue, and so how Australia plans for this in generations to come is important.


As the Minister responsible for superannuation in the Gillard Government, I’m acutely aware that we need to take steps now to avoid letting down an entire generation of modern Australian women.


Life expectancy for Australian women is now 84, versus 79 for men, and this means that planning for a longer life is incredibly important.


Women are far more likely to spend large periods of time out of the workforce raising children, meaning that over their life they’ll earn less. And it’s still a disappointing fact that women on average earn 17% less than men. As a country, we need to correct this injustice.


All of these factors mean that it’s never been more important that Australians, but in particular women, boost their retirement savings. On current statistics, the average superannuation balance on retirement is $200,000 for men and around half this figure for women.


Knowing this, the Labor Government is determined to deliver more people a more comfortable retirement.


Starting from July 1 this year, the rate of compulsory superannuation is going to increase from 9 per cent to 9.25. This will eventually increase to 12 per cent by 2020.


This means a 22 year old earning around $38,000 today will have almost $100,000 extra superannuation when they retires at 67.


We have abolished tax on superannuation for 3.6 million Australians, including 2.1 million women, earning up to $37,000 a year. This is great news for low income earners like part-time working mums, who will pay up to $500 a year less tax and instead put that money towards their retirement. The Liberal Party have indicated they will reintroduce this tax on working mums – I really hope they reconsider.


The Government’s reforms to superannuation are all about planning for the future and making sure living longer doesn’t mean Australians are living poorer.


As Superannuation Minister, I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be part of a Government which has its eye firmly on a plan for the future.


I don’t know what the average Australia is going to look like in 2050, but I do know that thanks to this Government, they’ll have a lot more money to ensure they get the retirement they deserve.