Women’s financial wellbeing and net worth in retirement are influenced by a variety of contextual factors and by decisions women make during their life cycle. New Zealand has a legal and policy framework in place to protect against discrimination, but gender gaps remain. These gender imbalances are generated through differences in men’s and women’s life experiences, particularly their work histories. Throughout their lifetimes, women tend to face more constraints than men in accumulating adequate wealth for retirement and on average, women’s net worth is lower than men’s.
While New Zealand Superannuation offers a universal pension, life-long wealth accumulation impacts upon an individual or household’s standard of living into retirement. Outcomes in retirement for women arise from the combined effects of their life-time income, longevity, savings behavior, asset accumulation (including housing) and, debt and its management.
Looking forward there is a risk that inequality of outcomes could be exacerbated with the increasing significance of KiwiSaver – a workplace-based savings scheme – for New Zealanders’ retirement income.
Based on preliminary research, the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income has hypothesised ten factors thought most likely to carry risks of negative impact on women’s financial wellbeing in retirement, and is working with the Treasury and Ministry of Women’s Affairs to test these hypotheses.
This report addresses the extent to which superannuation schemes in New Zealand address needs for retirement income in a gender-neutral manner.
The other nine factors thought likely to carry risks of negative impact are to be the focus of separate research efforts and include:
- the family, neighbourhood and community the woman was born into
- education including subjects studied, specific training, paid work experience while studying and level of access to on-going training and professional development while in the workforce
- visible and invisible structural factors in the workplace including pay structures and lack of flexibility that inhibit the promotion of women
- paid work response to breaks in earning including attitudes to health conditions, timing of family formation, child bearing, elder care and other life-cycle choices 2
- the ages at which women are most available to focus on paid employment and the nature of paid employment opportunities and earnings level, i.e. the ease and timing of entering and leaving the workforce (e.g. in specialist professions)
- the nature of the household unit (e.g. solo parent households, the majority of which are headed by women) family formation, career development, support from marriage/partnership, other family, friends, whānau and the community
- the endowment a women may have been provided with or may take away from a relationship breakup
- level of home ownership and other asset accumulation, levels of debt and skills at debt management, net worth and retirement prospects taking into account greater average longevity for women
- a variety of cultural and ethnic factors that may exacerbate disadvantages for women.