When it comes to the gender gap in retirement incomes, symbolism appears to matter more than actually achieving something.
Our analysis shows it would not. The boost to the retirement incomes of middle-income women would be minuscule.
The biggest beneficiaries from the estimated A$250 million per year in extra payments would be wealthier women, and even for them the benefit wouldn’t be big.
Importantly, by taking the place of a program that could actually improve the living standards of low-income women in retirement, the policy might do more harm than good.
The gender gap in retirement incomes is real
Australia has a persistent gender gap in retirement savings and incomes.
Since women tend to earn less than men over their working lives, they accumulate fewer retirement savings and receive lower incomes in retirement.
This means that men’s superannuation balances at retirement are on average twice as large as women’s.
Men also have much larger non-superannuation savings. Retired women, especially retired single women, are more likely than retired men to suffer poverty, housing stress and homelessness.
Labor’s plan is intended to boost the super balances of women who interrupt their careers to have children and are far more likely than men to work part-time to care for those children.
How much difference would Labors plan make?
Paid parental leave is currently worth A$719.35 a week, or around A$12,950 over the full 18 weeks.
Paying super on it would add an extra A$1,554 to retirement savings for each 18-week block.
A woman who has two children would retire with an extra A$20,000 of super.
But if she is a middle earner, a lot of it would get clawed back by the Age Pension means test.
If she is a very low earner, or a very high earner, she would escape the clawback.
Low- and high-earning women who take two stints of paid parental leave would end up with retirement incomes up to 0.5% higher.
But middle earners would get incomes only 0.14% higher.
Expressed in dollars, a woman earning the median Australian income who took two stints of leave in her early 30s would get an extra A$73 a year – less than A$1.50 a week.
A low-earning woman (in the bottom fifth of all earners) would get an extra A$164 a year. A high-earning woman (in the top 10%) would get A$356 a year.