YWCA warns women stand to lose most from pandemic package

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Australian women forced to draw on their superannuation savings to survive the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic will be pushed into poverty, a national women’s organisation has warned.

woman from YWCA
YWCA Australia CEO Michelle Phillips has warned that Australian women forced to draw on their superannuation savings to survive the COVID-19 pandemic will be pushed into poverty.

YWCA Australia CEO Michelle Phillips is urging the Federal Government to create a specific COVID-19 payment for eligible women, rather than leaving them no choice but to tap into their meagre retirement nest eggs.

“Australian women retire with 42% less in superannuation than their male counterparts,” Ms Phillips said. “In addition, more than half of all Australian women aged 40-45 years have less than $40,000 in super savings.

“We already know that nearly 40% of single retired women live in poverty and that women aged over 50 are the fastest growing group of people at risk of homelessness in Australia.

“Drawing on their superannuation when the market is low to weather the COVID-19 storm will consign even more women to an impoverished retirement.”

Ms Phillips said women comprised more than two-thirds of all part-time employees in Australia[i], and up to 85% of employees in the not-for-profit sector[ii], placing them amongst the lowest paid and most vulnerable in the labour market. With the gender pay gap, they received 14% less in earnings than their male counterparts.

“Women are more likely to work part-time or in casual roles because they are also more likely to be filling unpaid caregiving roles such as raising children and caring for elderly or sick family members,” she said.

“Women are also more likely to live in single-parent households and to experience housing stress. They make up most public housing tenants and Commonwealth Rent Assistance recipients.

“We are urging the Government to ensure that emergency funding and welfare support is directed at the most vulnerable people in our communities and that includes single mothers, women on low incomes, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

“Just as the Commonwealth is assisting big businesses and banks at this time, we are calling for it to also help those women who are financially disadvantaged and at risk of being pushed into poverty to survive the impacts of this pandemic.”

Ms Phillips said YWCA Australia welcomed the Federal Government’s measures to increase unemployment and other income support payments, saying it would assist some women to retain their jobs.

The YWCA is urging the Federal Government to create a specific COVID-19 payment for eligible women, rather than forcing them to access their superannuation. On average, Australian women retire with 42% less in superannuation than their male counterparts.

About YWCA Australia

YWCA Australia is a leading intersectional feminist organisation focused on improving gender equality for women, young women and girls. For 140 years, we have challenged the systems, structures and policies that act as barriers to women, especially young women, achieving their full potential.

Our high-impact evidence-based programs and services are inclusive of all women and offer support with housing, homelessness, safety, wellbeing and leadership. We aim to positively impact the lives of more than two million women, young women and girls by the end of 2023.


[i] https://www.employment.gov.au/newsroom/statistical-snapshot-women-australian-workforce

[ii] https://www.acoss.org.au/images/uploads/NFP_Boards_and_Gender_Diversity_2012_final.pdf

LJ Hooker Projects - The Chandler
LJ Hooker Projects - The Chandler