Women in the “transition to retirement years” are voting with their feet to top up their super.
In the course of conducting research for our “Fair Enough?” report submitted recently to the Australian Business Foundation, we also found that women in Australia are rethinking their super – with many finding that their situation is likely to be rather less than comfortable.
What this graph shows is the indices to illustrate some aspects of how the composition of the Australian labour force is changing. This reflects the changing nature of working life in Australia:
- Growth in participation by men generally is a flat line – no surprise there in a mature, western economy. The others are all on an upward trend, 3 in line with growth in the workforce. That shows that the growth in the workforce over this time is disproportionately due to greater participation by women generally, and older men to some extent.
- The obvious exception is growth in the participation by women aged 55 to 64, which increases at a rate much higher than any other index. It is not a stretch to say that something else is at play to keep these women in the workforce, or make them return to work even if they have already “retired”.
We theorised that the motivation was likely to be economic/financial rather than the sheer love of working life! Since developing this idea, we have discussed this with dozens of women. What is their motivation for being in the workforce at this stage of their life? Their answers summed to “economic necessity”. They have effectively arrived at a choice of living in genteel poverty for another 40 years – not starving but no holidays, no treats and no fun! The alternative is staying at, or going back to, work in “top up the super” mode.
The good news is that the jobs market is great and there are options for these women – those we spoke to across the board largely were making a positive and willing choice to work part time or casual instead of full time, not wanting to commit to all the weight of another full time role. Those working full time often looked for options to wind back their hours, either by changing jobs or opening their own business.
*We have indexed these data series back to the common year in which they became available from the ABS. All data is taken from published time series online at the ABS, principally Catalogue item 4102 Australian Social Trends.
Download the graph: