Young Women Most Vulnerable to Proposed Pension Plans

Germaine Greer: Photo
Germaine Greer: Photo

Australia may have had its first female prime minister, but 45 years after Germaine Greer’s seminal work on feminism The Female Eunuch, the author warns that Australian women not only have a long way to go to achieve security but that those under the age of 50 are actually at their most vulnerable.

Speaking in Sydney at the recent All About Women festival for International Women’s Day, Greer cautioned that the government’s proposed changes to the age pension would be particularly devastating to female retirees.

Under the proposal, the retirement age for those born after 1965 would be lifted from 65 to 70, pension would be solely linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and it will be means tested despite the principle residence not being included in that calculation.

Greer called the Abbott government proposals, “an attack on pensioners” and warned that with women traditionally earning nearly 19% less than their male counterparts, this could leave many of them well below the poverty line in their retirement.

Greer’s dire predictions are supported by Professor Peter Whiteford from Australian National University, his analysis showed that if the changes are adopted the pension will drop from 28 per cent of average weekly earnings today to just 16 per cent by 2055.

Joining the chorus opposing these measures, Ian Yates, the Chief Executive of seniors advocate group COTA (Council Of The Ageing), pointed out that if the changes had been brought in 2009 pensioners would have already lost out to the tune of $1,560 per year, and that the deduction would keep rising until it was $4,160 per year after ten years.

Yates adds, “Cutting indexation to CPI only will mean a big and growing cut to the pension over time and will result in many pensioners spiralling into poverty, ill health and even homelessness.”

Greer ruminates that elderly women may have to keep working beyond retirement age simply to survive and that ironically one of the few places to offer them work is the direct care workforce, where almost 90% of workers are women, “being paid $20 per hour without opportunities for progression.”

“Why does the Government beat up this sector? Because they know they can get away with it … Because 51% of the population has no political power.”

Greer’s calls for women to, “… make it clear to Tony Abbott he can’t get away with it” are echoed by Labor’s Shadow Minister for Families & Payments, Jenny Macklin.

Macklin reminded the voting public that ex-PM John Howard was the architect behind historic pension reforms for women in 1997:

“John Howard knew the importance of a fair pension for women. As the Minister for Women, Tony Abbott must drop his harmful cuts to pension indexation, immediately.”


Shona Parker


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