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Superannuation
Retirement income failing Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander people

Creating equitable retirement outcomes in Australian society should be an objective of the retirement income system, but the Retirement Income Review raised concerns about some falling through the gaps.

In 2018, the median super balance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men was 59% lower than that of all men - $25,000 as opposed to $60,635. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women had balances 50% lower, $19,000 as opposed to $38,000.

And, those figures do not capture the portion of the population that does not have any super at all.

Only 58% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a super account (83% of all women do) and 74% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men (as opposed to 85% of all men).

The way JobSeeker (unemployment benefits) are structured does not help this inequality.

The report found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in the Community Development Program - a remote-area community scheme where participants receive JobSeeker.

On JobSeeker, people are required to do 20 hours of work or work-like activities similar to the now defunct work-for-the-dole program.

"Similar work activities outside of the program would ordinarily attract superannuation," the Retirement Income Review acknowledged.

And, while First Nations Foundation notes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have multiple super accounts with balances being eroded by fees, there is a lack of data on this issue. It is not possible to quantify how much this really effects the population because most super funds do not record the Indigenous status of members.

At the 2016 Census, 45% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 65 and over owned their own home, compared with 71% of the total population aged 65 and over. With the report clearly identifying the importance of home ownership in retirement, this is also impacting the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

First Nations Foundation also noted in its submission to the Retirement Income Review that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewed superannuation as wage garnishing, as opposed to mandatory savings.

This is because of the historical context of state and territory governments garnishing wages from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Those who view the superannuation system as garnished wages never expect to see their savings again - dis-incentivising contributions.

Policy suggestions from submissions on solving some of these problems include removing the $450 a week threshold for the super guarantee, lowering the age at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access their supper, increasing support for renters, increasing SG and improving data collection on the Indigenous status of account holders.

Read more: AboriginalTorres Strait IslanderRetirement Income ReviewJobSeekerFirst Nations FoundationCommunity Development ProgramSGTorres Strait Islanders
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