Lifting the Superannuation Guarantee will make middle-income earners poorer over their entire lifetime, new Grattan Institute research shows.
Raising the SG from 9.5% to 12% would see a 30-year-old worker fork out $30,000 over their lifetime, Grattan estimates, adding that with all things being equal the calculations take into account inflation only.
An increase could also result in workers receiving lower wages.
With workers' weak bargaining power and employers' unwillingness to give pay rises, Grattan is concerned that wages will only absorb the increase in compulsory super.
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While real wages have stagnated, nominal wages are still growing by 2.2% a year over the past five years, it said. "It would be easy for employers to simply reduce those nominal wage rises to offset any increase in compulsory super - as they have in the past."
Grattan pointed out that compulsory super was originally created to forestall wage increases that could have sparked inflation.
"And workers appear to have paid for compulsory super via lower take-home wages. That's the view of the Henry Tax Review and the Parliamentary Budget Office." It is also the position held by Paul Keating, Bill Shorten and the Fair Work Commission in 2013.
The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees head of advocacy Ailsa Goodwin said adjusting the taper rate is critical to the integrity of superannuation and the wider retirement income systems.
"We need to restore appropriate savings incentives so that that super can do what it was designed to do for middle Australia, which is to supplement the Age Pension," she said.
Wages have been flat for some time and there have been no SG increases since 2014, Goodwin said.