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Newly released data highlights 36% gender gap on KiwiSaver contributions

Latest research released by Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission has revealed a 36% gap between the amount men and women are putting into KiwiSaver each year.

Te Ara Ahunga Ora commissioned the New Zealand Policy Research Institute at AUT to carry out research using newly available information in Stats NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), which allows KiwiSaver contribution rates to be investigated from April 2019.

The research indicates that this 36% gap is primarily caused by the gender pay gap, rather than a difference in contribution rates, as women and men on average contribute the same percentage of their salaries to KiwiSaver. Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson is calling on employers to take a careful look at their current KiwiSaver policies and whether they have their employees’ best interests at heart.

“At the moment we’re not seeing employers show the initiative we’d hope to see, one in three employees already contribute at a rate higher than the 3% minimum. Unfortunately, less than 10% of employers contribute more than the compulsory 3%, and almost half include KiwiSaver contributions in total earnings for some or all of their employees, which can disincentivise employees to contribute.

“If we want to see change, I think we need to see a more proactive attitude across the board from employers. We all have a stake in New Zealand’s future and there are concerns that people may not be saving enough for retirement, so we need to be taking practical steps to tackle these issues.” Te Ara Ahunga Ora Policy Lead, Dr Michelle Reyers, says the release of this data also presents an opportunity to look deeper into the forces causing contribution amounts to differ so significantly across gender and ethnicity.

“The data allows us to examine the individual characteristics of KiwiSaver members in a way we’ve never been able to before. It exposes some clear imbalances which tell us that if we don’t make changes, we are on a pathway to continue seeing the inequalities we are already seeing in our retired population for decades to come,” says Dr Reyers.

According to Stats NZ, the gender pay gap was 9% in 2021, and even larger for Māori and Pacific women. Women are also more likely to work part time and take on unpaid caring responsibilities, further exacerbating this gap, which is why we are seeing the larger difference in the dollar value of contributions into women’s accounts compared to men’s accounts in this research.

The research shows ethnic pay gaps are also mirrored in lower KiwiSaver contribution amounts for Māori and Pacific Peoples. If you are Māori or Pacific, you are likely to have around $1,500 less contributed into your KiwiSaver account annually than a European person. However, Māori have the second highest average employee contribution rate of the ethnic groups reported in this research, despite having the lowest average income. The data highlights the sizeable impact of ethnic and gender pay gaps on New Zealanders’ abilities to prepare adequately for retirement. It is already known that Māori, Pacific Peoples and women are more likely to be reliant on NZ Super in retirement due to lower savings and investments.

 

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