How key is gender in retirement outcomes?

A question about gender inequality in retirement was met with silence and then laughter at the recent Actuaries Institute Summit in Sydney.

UNSW associate professor Anthony Asher, Mercer senior actuary David Knox and Rice Warner founder Michael Rice took to the stage towards the end of the conference to offer a range of options "for a better, integrated system of retirement".

Taking the crowd through current trends such as shifting work patterns and Australia's growing aged care costs, the presenters also ran through several opportunities for potential reform.

Simplifying the Age Pension, embedding longevity adjustments and setting targets for Government expenditure were all offered by the assembled experts as options to reform the retirement income system, before the floor was opened to questions.

A member of the crowd asked the three experts how gender inequality had informed their presentation and received no answer. This was followed by laughter from the crowd.

"I think, generally speaking that because most people are effectively in a couple, my own personal view is that gender inequality is best served by making sure that fathers have to pay for their mother's time out of the workforce," Asher said.

"I do think the current debate's not really helpful."

Michael Rice said the three didn't specifically look at gender, but noted Australia's largest cohort in poverty is single female renters in retirement.

"So that means you need to put more into rent assistance, and even raise the age pension itself. But you can't do that if 80% of people get a pension," Rice said.

"So getting the parameters right is how we fix a lot of these problems anyway."

The questioner responded that while she "really liked" some of the ideas the panelists raised, she believed the changes would be detrimental to women, such as linking the age at which Australian's could access their super.

"Some of the clients I see are already just struggling to retire and be able to access some of their pension," she said.

Knox said the points raised were good, noting that as the industry works through its various options, consideration needs to be given to how the fundamental principles of financial security, fairness and efficiency are affected.

Read more: RetirementActuaries Institute SummitMichael RiceAge PensionAnthony AsherDavid KnoxRice WarnerMercerSuperannuation
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