Comparative Research in Welfare


Gender Gap in Retirement Schemes from a cross national perspective for single older women living in 21 C

A Comparative Inter-Societal Research by Paula E. Williams, December 2009

· A Social Work study: Research on social policies and labor models relating to gender gap regarding superannuation and different systems of ‘Old Age’ security. among single, older women

· A comparative inter-societal approach to welfare, market regulations in retirement savings among single, older women across four industrialized countries Australia, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden


This study expands on secondary comparative research data from a cross-national perspective the adequacy (or rather inadequacy) of some social benefits and retirement saving schemes for single, older women and the effects it has on their economic status in today’s society. With extended periods in and out of the workforce to meet their caring responsibilities, women who have children are already disadvantaged in comparison with men in their income over time and in the superannuation entitlements they can accumulate. The ongoing effects of earning less than male counterparts and the difficulties in securing ongoing well-paid employment when returning to the workforce all contribute to the relative poverty of women (Parr, 2007; 2).

This is a crucial time for women where superannuation especially in some countries like Australia up until late 1980 and early 90’s was only available to working males. However, social changes have seen women enter the traditional workforce in large numbers, while unpaid work in the home and caring responsibilities continue to be disproportionately undertaken by women. This comparative inter-societal study polarises the findings regarding the economic position of single older women in four industrialized countries which have shown substantial differences, especially regarding the proportion of widows, divorcees, and never-married women experiencing poverty.

A recent survey of international patterns of pension provision relying on data from the 1990s finds that pension schemes financed by social security contributions are the most important source of support in old-age among developed countries (p6)|[1]. Pension systems differ across European countries according to various characteristics. This study builds on the analyses using some of the comparative intra-generational redistributive performance of public pension transfers using data from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) 2007. In conclusion the comparative study discusses these differences and recommendations for policy makers regarding single older women across Australia, Germany, Sweden and Netherlands regarding the role of different structural features of old-age security plans in limiting poverty.

I will develop hypotheses from this comparative intra-societal study on the paths whereby women are greatly subjected to accumulating superannuation particularly in Australia compared to other OECD industrialised countries as to their male counterparts based on wage inequality and child raising as well as historically, barriers to employment retirement schemes in their lifetime.

This inter - societal study must point out that the compilation of accurate data on the distribution of superannuation assets for individuals has been problematic, because many Australians hold multiple superannuation accounts spread across different funds and there are difficulties for linking the records from separate funds (ABS 2001; Kelly 2003). Even where estimates of superannuation balances are available, there has previously been little information available on the distribution of assets according to social and demographic characteristics such as marital status, number of children, educational attainment, and migrant status. (ABS 2001; ABS 2006c).

This study concentrates on comparative inter- societal research only. Thus, it does not include nationally focused research on social care. Comparative social care research is too broad a subject especially now with a rapidly expanding field that one review cannot cover all details of all previous research. The aim here is to present a general overview of comparative models relevant to retirement schemes cross nationally. Whereby, the study begins by looking into comparative research done within the two main areas gender gap inequality in wage income ability and retirement schemes for single older women and workforces across four OECD industrialized countries.

This paper briefly outlines the welfare structure and historical development of Australia’s superannuation schemes in comparison to other models in Germany, Sweden and Netherlands. A comparative study across the four countries is examined by differentiating various literature findings on the society impacts and social roles of women versus men’s wage disparity and retirement scheme policies by contrasting, universalizing and variation-fact finding for discussion.

Introduction and Outline:

Cross-national studies for comparing relative poverty rates has become a general methodological convention that eases the interpretation of results. This study will follow that convention however, will focus in particular on a segment of potential accumulated poverty among single elderly women in 21st Century across Australia, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. There are two main lines of relevant research in this paper; one based on activities by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) and Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the other initiated by the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS)[[#_ftn2|[2]][2]. Included in this study is a table listing the comparative studies of economic well-being focusing on single elderly individuals[[#_ftn3|[3]][3]. It should be noted that the order in which they appear represents increasing specificity and completeness of the research efforts for the group being measured. Other comparative studies that build into this paper are from SPRU and NOVA, in Oslo as part of the Nordic Council of Ministers who conducted a comparative study of the interactions between changing family forms, the labour market and related social policies in the Nordic countries of which includes three of the four countries under this review; Sweden, Germany, Netherlands. The Australian Human Rights Commission (HREOC)[[#_ftn4|[4]][4] will supply comparative data for the fourth country being Australia. This study compares following patterns of family change, changes in the labour market and the impact of these in reconciling work and family life and explores how social policies are responding to these changes.

Lastly, I will discuss some evidence on the redistributive performance of public pension’s scheme among the European countries. Rather how pension benefits represent an important share of GDP in most countries today and how they are expected to increase even more in the context of an ageing society, Ideally, the necessity to protect elderly from poverty and precariousness is important especially for single elderly women. In conclusion this final stage of the paper will make some comparisons between the 2009 recommendations issued by the Australian Commission[[#_ftn5|[5]][5] with the European Commission 2006 report on “Adequate and Sustainable Pensions”. The latter of which points how one of the main achievements of social policies in Europe was that being old were no longer synonymous with being poor and that this success had mainly been achieved through the provision of public pensions. A model that Australia no doubt needs to at least consider, or if not postulate towards a future retirement model for a more sustainable pension scheme for its ageing population, in particularly single elderly women.

Research Rationale:

The objective of this inter – societal comparative study is to illuminate the differences and similarities in retirement benefit schemes in relation to welfare policy and gender gap wage disparity in labour and welfare models across Australia, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. The research has focused on three different models relating to welfare states and market regulations versus Liberal, Nordic and Corporative models in relation to pension schemes and wage equality or inequality affecting retirement income schemes and the propensity for single elderly women to acquire poverty in retirement years.

LIS (2007), shows that there is wide variation among the European countries but that these differences can be explained by the characteristics of the systems. It is also shown that redistribution does not occur the same way among subgroups of population and that older women are the less favoured by the pension systems similarly to Australia. In this study I will focus on the intra-generational cross-sectional perspective using the LIS database and the Australian database as a starting point to my research.

Comparative models in regards to sustainable and scaleable retirement schemes cross nationally and Welfare States:
The four countries chosen in this comparative intra-societal study have one or more benefits plans available for retirees going by names such as pension systems, pension plans, or social security. The purpose of this research is to study the wide variety of retirement benefits available in those countries when related to elderly single women and the effectiveness of these retirement schemes in the prevention of poverty among older single women. Comparative analysis will be differentiated across the four countries based on their varying models (little to strong) of market regulatory policies pension schemes and family approaches as follows:

Comparative Welfare States:

Market Regulation
Pension Schemes

Family Approaches
Little regulation
Non Famlialist
Medium regulation
Pure universal
Non Familialist
Strong regulation
Pure Occupational
Medium regulation

Ref: K. Urponen (slide 99) Optima , Oulu Finland: Ref 11/10/09- Comparative Research 2009

I particularly chose another European country in this study the “German model” as a strong regulation and an archetype for several other countries in the EU. One of the pillars of this success was the extensive German welfare system. Today, Germany boasts one of the most comprehensive welfare systems: 27.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product is channeled into public welfare spending.[[#_ftn6|[6]][6]

Comparative Framework Models:
Understanding the welfare models framework for Sweden, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands is best compared against public, employers and insured candidates against others as follows:


1. Nordic Oriented
Sweden and Australia
2. Corporative Oriented
3. Insured Oriented

Models of Welfare States:
Model Welfare States
Primary Mechanism of Welfare
Incentives to get off Welfare
Means Tested Benefits
Low level of Service
Social Insurance
Reward for work years

Universal Benefits

Ref: K. Urponen slide 85 extracted from Optima oulu fi Ref 11/10/09 Comparative Research 2009

Differentiation of European Social Services:
In order to understand more about Public Social Service (PSS) in Europe is to compare countries in terms of their similarities and differences. To understand our comparison analysis it is important to view the study by a descriptive country by country approach with a more analytical and structured approach between welfare states, by grouping the four countries construct models of welfare states according to their more or less common characteristics using the Esping Anderson (1990)[[#_ftn7|[7]][7] framework. The limitation of his approach is that PSS are excluded from his analysis because of lack of reliable data. His world defines the following models against Ferrera’s model framework on Pensions Schemes:

Esping Anderson’s World

1. Germany & Netherlands Conservative -Corporatist
2. Sweden Social Democratic
3. Australia Liberal

Ferrera’s Model
1. Germany Pure occupational
2. Netherlands Mixed Occupational
3. Sweden Pure Universal
4. Australia Mixed Universal

Furthermore, Kautto’s work
provides an empirical or quantitative research account for a comparison which is designed to assess to what extent there are so called “Esping Anderson type clusters” of countries according
[[#_ftn8|[8]][8] to their expenditure on services or cash benefits. Kautto’s speculative conclusion from his study is that:

It is tempting to argue that ageing populations, an emphasis on active rather than passive measures, increased labour force participation among women and calls for gender equality have increased the need for service provision and that this growing need has resulted in more rather than less investment in services in a large majority of the West European welfare states.

An area no doubt that will further be researched in the near future when relating to the typologies regarding the traits in common amongst cross national studies of this kind.

Qualitative Research: Comparative Benefits and Gender Gap:
Secondary data obtained from historical records and former research reports from HREOC accumulating poverty about women’s experiences of inequality over the lifecycle are included in this study. In particular, an issues paper which was released in September 2009 examining the gender gap in retirement living.[[#_ftn9|[9]][9] The following case study highlights the very real impact of women’s inequality over the lifecycle.

Case study: Tamara, Blog entry (2008) Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Listening Tour website at 21 March 2008:
I’m a mother who has been out of the paid workforce for two years and will probably be for the next 4 years, until my children are ready for pre-school. My return to work will probably be on a part-time basis and I will probably have to re-start my career after so many years out so I don’t expect that I will earn very much. I never thought this would be the case - I studied for many years, earned a higher degree, worked overseas and then started my family...I can’t see how, after this time out of the workforce, my earnings will ever come close to my partner’s. I dread to think of how I will ever manage if I have to rely upon my meagre superannuation contributions in retirement.

The gender gap in retirement savings and retirement incomes requires us to think beyond the current retirement system and envision a system where every contribution – paid and unpaid – is appropriately recognised and valued. The retirement income system should be informed by the reality of events across a woman’s lifecycle - entering the workforce, career progression, pregnancy, balancing work and caring responsibilities, violence, divorce and retirement.
HREOC Statistics: Table: Estimated superannuation balances by age, Australia, 2006[10]

Age group
Female/Male Proportion
All ages

Quantitative Research Analysis: Comparative Benefits Studies 2006
(Siegenthaler, J Social Security Bulletin +Vol.59,No 3-Full 1996)

The comparative income studies, poverty rates:
This table demonstrates on the basis of the studies cited above that, the Netherlands and Sweden appear to have the best record in preventing poverty among older single women. As shown in table above , Sweden’s figures are a little less impressive once either a lower poverty threshold is used (row 4) or the use of an older age bracket is taken into consideration (row 6) but the Dutch figures document a relatively low level of poverty throughout. Germany follows at a greater distance, and has often been singled out as the rich continental welfare state with the most serious poverty problem among older single women.

Interestingly, among the selected countries three of the four studies question the risk and prevalence of poverty. Over time, the findings of comparative studies have become somewhat more consistent and tend to be based on more comprehensive data and more precise measurement, even though the purposes and, thus, the variables and definitions in these studies remain different.

Future comparative efforts are expected to become even more reliable. It is already clear that considerable discrepancies persist in the well-being of older single women in different countries. Their economic security seems to be guaranteed only in the Netherlands, Sweden. This leads to the question of how differing old-age benefit structures account for these outcomes.

Finding from both quantitative and qualitative Comparative Benefit Studies
Many comparative studies over the years have presented with the question of the risk and prevalence of poverty. Once again, there is one identifiable research tradition linked to Eurostat studies and one connected with LIS research projects, along with various other efforts. In the benefit realm, however, it is harder to locate studies that permit a focus specifically on payments for older single women. The various measures used allow only indirect inference as to the benefit status of women. Some comparisons also have been much broader, encompassing whole systems, and including benefits as only one aspect. It must be noted that given this diversity, reviewing all of these studies one by one would be beyond the scope of the present study.

The following comparative cross national intra societal study examines each of the four countries, to see what combinations of income sources and benefit provisions work for or against the avoidance of poverty among older single women. The most recent generally available data are used from LIS data bases or Eurostat and Australian Bureau of Statistics, HREOC and Australian Taxation Department compilations. In order to determine the relative economic standing of single elderly women and to deduce an assessment of recommendation as to what helps keep them from being poor, the key figures are presented for each country (Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Australia) as follows:

· a relative poverty level of 50 percent of the mean income of single women of retirement age is used as a comparative benchmark;
· savings and earnings incomes as percentages of total money income of single older women;
· the social security benefits of single women compared with the above relative poverty level; this figure will generally indicate the relative “adequacy” of basic provision when it comes to women who are on their own;
· benefits received from complementary pension schemes, expressed throughout as mean amounts per single woman of retirement age, along with coverage data;
· statutory or other minimum benefits;
· social assistance provisions and levels of benefits; and
· any official poverty threshold that may be in use.

Benefit structures, qualifying conditions, and benefit formulas are generally complex and have many special provisions and qualifications. These cannot be discussed in detail inn this study, but a description will be provided of the main system-specific characteristics that seem important for addressing research questions on the standing of older single women. This review involves not only a look at general measures listed above (the 50-percent benchmark, the average retirement benefit, shares of income from earnings and assets, and so forth), but also a brief characterization of the respective institutional arrangements (for example, a single- or multi-tier system, targeted benefits, and coverage provisions). One complication in this review is that benefits are in all cases paid in local currency. The comparison of these amounts is complicated by several factors. Exchange rates offered by banks and similar institutions have varied considerably over the time span reviewed.

Country by Country Comparative Intra-societal Analysis of Single Elderly Women

Occupational Pensions
Minimum Benefit
Social Assistance
National Poverty
There is a variety of data sources available for the periodic assessment of German retiree well-being. Apart from the income information covering the whole population, recent special surveys on old-age security in 1986 and 1992 (Bundesamt fur Arbeit und Sozialordnung 1994) offer an in- depth picture of the economic situation, and particularly the detailed benefits, of the elderly in Germany. To focus on income and benefits of elderly single women, we turn to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (Statistisches Bundesamt n.d.), which collected data for 1988. Women aged 65 or older, living alone, received an average gross income of DM 23,600 per year in 1988. The 50-percent threshold thus amounted to DM 11,800. On average, 2.2 percent of income was from earnings and 12.5 percent from assets.
The basic, old-age security benefit (Gesetzliche Renten-Versicherung, GRV) amounted to DM 14,376 per year on average for women who were on their own. Much as in France, supplements are paid for child-rearing, additional years of education, housing expenses, and for war victims. A more representative figure that includes these amounts, together with civil service pensions, is the average DM 18,640 in total public transfers
Complementary, occupational pensions are separate and do not form part of a combined benefit. They are voluntary in Germany, and far from commonly available for women. The coverage of women aged 65 or older in Germany by complementary, private pension benefits has often been criticized as insufficient. Payments from private pensions amounted to only DM 587 per year on average in 1988 for all older women living alone. In 1992, even among the group that was best off (women aged 65 or older who were never married), only 19 percent received private pension benefits. Among widows, only 4 percent of elderly women had their own private pension coverage, and another 11 percent had private pension benefits derived from their husbands’ plans (Bundesministerium fur Arbeit und Sozialordnung 1994, table B-79).
Germany does not offer a general mini- mum benefit. The closest equivalent is a GRV pension benefit derived from a special formula, available to low-wage employees with at least 25 years of contributions (which is somewhat similar to the “special minimum” available in the United States). It is set at the benefit level corresponding to the benefit paid to someone having 75 percent of the average income. However, this “minimum” is not available to the many women whose working careers did not extend over a long enough period: Only 20 percent of women’s pensions are augmented using this special formula (Kohl 1990, pp. 3-4).
This ultimate means of avoiding poverty is not integrated with social security. Even the statistical sources for assessing social assistance are very limited. Of all women aged 65 or older, 1.8 percent received some amount of social assistance benefits in 1989 (Ruland 1993, p. 348). As the situation of married couples is generally secure, we can infer that it is mainly single women who must fall back on social assistance. According to the Income and Expenditure Survey, 4.7 per- cent of older single women (in this case, aged 70 or older) were on social assistance and their benefits amounted to an average of DM 4,860 per year per recipient (Statistisches Bundesamt nd.). The 1992 old-age security survey reported that 4 percent of widowed, 12 percent of divorced, and 4 percent of never- married women aged 65 or older received social assistance (Bundesministerium fur Arbeit und Sozialordnung 1994). One qualification always pointed out regarding German social assistance for the elderly, however, is that the take-up is estimated only at 50 percent (Ruland 1993; Veil et al. 1992). The amount of the social assistance benefit reflects a basic benefit set according to fairly uniform scales at the state (Lander) level, augmented by 20 percent for persons aged 60 or older, and supplemented by payments in special circumstances such as illness or disability (another 15-20 percent) and for housing costs. All these components equalled an average of about DM 9,600 per year in 1985 for a single pensioner. The benefit is not adjusted on a regular basis to reflect increases in the cost of living, and has thus fallen behind increases in public pensions.
The full-entitlement social assistance amount, augmented as described earlier, comes closest to a quasi-official poverty line (Kohl 1990, pp. 4-5).
Occupational Pensions
Minimum Benefit
Social Assistance
National Poverty
The Dutch data systems are among the best available. Apart from the basic income statistics produced by Statistics Netherlands, regular-interval studies by the Dutch Social and Cultural Planning Office extract data from administrative records, add information from its own surveys, and break out data that are specifically applicable to the economic standing of the aged (Timmermans 1994). In addition, special inquiries on the position of women (for example, Hooghiemstra and Niphuis-Nell 1993) provide employment and income information.
Netherlands conducts the Income Panel Study to collect income data on old-age insurance (AOW) benefit recipients. According to the most recently published information, the 1992 income of single women aged 65 or older amounted to an average of NLG 32,300 per year. The 50-percent comparison threshold would thus stand at NLG 16,150. Some 2.8 percent of this income stemmed from earnings and 17.6 per- cent from assets (Bos 1995, pp. 70-72).

The Netherlands’ basic scheme of old-age provision, largely contribution-financed and near-universal, offers a flat-rate benefit that amounted to NLG 17,600 yearly for older women living alone in 1992. It is complemented by pensions paid from voluntary occupational schemes, from which older single women drew NLG 7,100 on average (Bos 1995, pp. 71-72). However, the average amount hides situations in which only the flat-rate basic retirement benefit is received. The AOW and average complementary benefit together, NLG 24,700, amounted to 153 percent of the 50-percent income threshold.
Extensive discussion in the mid- 1980’s made it clear that income shortfalls were experienced primarily by older women, compared with couples and single men, when complementary pension coverage was lacking. Only 35 percent of widows were entitled to widows’ benefits under such plans (Emancipatieraad 1990, p. 13). While it had been assumed that the voluntary occupational pension schemes would soon cover everyone, 18 percent of employees turned out to have no such coverage. Women working part-time and nonworking married women were at particular risk of being under-protected, and faced a future old age of relative deprivation (de Kemp 1992, p. 164). More recent figures indicate that 29.3 percent of single women aged 65 or older do not receive any benefits out of complementary schemes, either as survivors or on their own (Bos 1995, p. 69).
The benefit floor in the Netherlands is formed by the standard flat-rate payment for virtually all Dutch elderly, NLG 17,600 in 1992. This is determined by the level of the minimum wage, and not the level of contributions or the length of enrolment (except where the latter is interrupted by extended periods of living abroad). It thus amounts to a fixed social minimum (Pohler 1992, pp. 32-33), equivalent to 109 percent of the 50-percent poverty threshold. Social assistance.-This is similarly standardized nation-wide and linked with the minimum wage, but it is of little significance for most of the elderly, who are protected by the higher AOW pension. A small minority, 1.4 percent of single women aged 65 or older, have suffered some shortfall of the flat-rate benefit and receive social assistance payments averaging NLG 5,700 in supplementary support (Statistics Nether-lands 1994, p. 20).

This is similarly standardized nation-wide and linked with the minimum wage, but it is of little significance for most of the elderly, who are protected by the higher AOW pension. A small minority, 1.4 % of single women aged 65 or older, have suffered some shortfall of the flat-rate benefit and receive social assistance payments averaging NLG5,700 in supplementary support (Statistics Netherlands 1994,p.20)
The Dutch discussion of pockets of old-age poverty refers not so much to problems of falling below an economic minimum as to a sense of relative adequacy.
Occupational Pensions
Minimum Benefit
Social Assistance
National Poverty
Statistics Sweden provides several annual in- come data series. The two main sources are (1) the Income and Tax Statistics, which employ data exclusively from different administrative registers and cover all citizens, and (2) the Income Distribution Survey, based on a sample of 10,000 households and combining data from administrative registers, tax returns, and a questionnaire (for a complete review of sources, see Jansson 1994b). The Income Distribution Survey is included in the LIS databases. In addition, special reports have been prepared with regard to the standard of living of the elderly (Social department et 1993). According to the Income and Tax Statistics (Statistics Swe-den 1995a), the average annual 1993 income of single women aged 65 or older came to SEK 87,700 for those previously married and SEK 91,200 for those never married. Conservatively, the 50 percent “poverty” threshold can be set at SEK 44,750. This income included about 3.5 percent from earnings and 11.2 percent from assets (Statistics Sweden 1995b, table 13).

Sweden’s social security system offers a flat-rate basic benefit for all elderly, together with an earnings-related benefit (ATP). All social security pensions are calculated using the so-called base amount, a price-index-adjusted figure determined each year (SEK 34,400 in 1993). The ATP’s link to the length of employment is not very strong, but whether one’s wages are high enough to make one qualify for the scheme, and the level of contributions do matter, especially for women. Whereas, in the “typical” case for men, the earnings related component is much larger than the basic payment and collectively negotiated occupational pension benefits are generally more ample than they are for typical women (Scherman 1994, p. 10); only 60 percent of women aged 65 or older (in contrast to 95 percent of men) were covered for and thus received ATP benefits (Jansson 1994a, p. 4). Figures on benefit levels by gender are available for all women (single or currently married) aged 65 or older in 1992. For them, the flat-rate benefit amounted to SEK 41,700 and the earnings-related ATP payment to SEK 22,500 on average (Statistics Sweden 1995b, pp. 303-304).

In addition, there are voluntary occupational pension plans that complement the public old-age benefits. Coverage for women here is even lower than it is for the earnings-based ATP, at 47 percent (Jansson 1994a, p. 4). For this reason, women, on average, only draw approximately another SEK 8,000 per year from occupational pension plans. The sum of the three averages-flat-rate benefit, earnings-related benefit, and occupational pension benefits-amounted to SEK 72,000 or 168 percent of the 50-percent income thresh-old recalculated for 1992 to correspond to the benefits figure.)

A complete picture must take into account minimum and supplementary provisions. A floor is provided by an old-age pension supplement of a little less than half the flat-rate benefit (SEK 34,400) to those seniors who have no or very little earnings-related entitlement (Scherman 1994, p. 10); 45 percent of women pensioners received this supplement in 1992 (Statistics Sweden 1994, p. 303). This basic pension-plus-supplement payment is sometimes identified as the “minimum old-age benefit.” In 1993, it amounted to SEK 5 1,074 for a single elderly person, or 114 percent of the 50-percent income threshold (Nordic Social-Statistical Committee 1995, p. 159). But 27 percent of all pensioners qualify for a housing supplement that boosts the benefits of economically vulnerable retirees. The combined effect of all supplementary benefits could guarantee qualifying single pensioners (men or women) a benefit of as much as SEK 71,000 a year in 1993 (Smedmark 1993) 159 percent of the 50-percent income threshold. An additional minimum safeguard also applies to widows. The general survivor’s payment is a temporary adjustment benefit, but if basic and earnings-related benefits are not sufficient after adjustment, a permanent widow’s benefit is available (National Social Insurance Board 1994, pp. 60-61).

Given this rather comprehensive mini- mum and supplementary protection, social assistance benefits for the elderly are not very prevalent in Sweden, and the pro- portion of elderly who have had to turn to this support has been declining. Only 1.3 percent of all seniors receive such assistance, amounting to about SEK 14,000 per recipient per year (Nordic Social-Statistical Committee 1990 pp. 44, 169, 224). Statistics broken out by sex are not published, but given the lower benefit levels previously observed, the percentage among single women, while still quite small, is presumably higher.

There is no official poverty standard in use in Sweden.
Occupational Pensions
Minimum Benefit
Social Assistance
National Poverty
A report based on the data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA), found the average household disposable income for a single retired woman over the age of 65 was $14 000, compared to $18 000 for a single retired man. The average household income for a couple over the age of 65 was $28 000, shared by both members of the couple. [49]

As a result of low superannuation savings, women are currently and will continue to be heavily reliant upon the Age Pension. The Australian Government has reported that 58.3% of all Age Pensioners are women and 73% of those receiving the single rate of the Age Pension are women. Of all retired households, single women are most likely to be reliant on the full Age Pension as their main source of retirement income.[59][[#_ftn10|[10]]Australia has a three pillar retirement income
system with a government funded Age Pension supported by compulsory saving (the superannuation guarantee (SG)) and voluntary saving. This system ensures support for the aged once they are no longer able to work.

The Age Pension provides basic support to those older Australians with no or moderate private income or assets. Its aim is to provide an acceptable standard of living in retirement regardless of an individual's time in the workforce and access to superannuation. The Age Pension also supplements the other income of most retirees. A means test that takes into account a retiree's other income and assets determines the supplementation. The SG requires individuals to save for their retirement and closely relates an individual's retirement income to their time in the workforce. One reason given by the government for introducing the SG was to counter the possible short‑sighted behaviour of individuals to save inadequately for their retirement. However, compulsory saving may also act to counter the effects of an Age Pension and taxation on decisions to save. The promise of a means‑tested Age Pension may result in people choosing not to save, or to save less than they might otherwise. The tax treatment of long‑term savings can also result in individuals preferring to save less. Under the SG, 9 per cent of an employee's remuneration is paid into a superannuation fund to support their retirement.1 Although employers are required to make superannuation contributions on behalf of their employees, employees may have borne the cost of the SG through lower wage growth at the time the SG was increased. This was outlined in the government paper announcing the SG. Average retirement benefits from Social Security (Old-Age, Survivor, and Disability Insurance) amounted to $6,744 and $7,356 in 1992 for single women who were entitled to benefits on the basis of their own past work and for widows, respectively (Social Security Administration 1993, p. 199, table 5.Al5).

While the disparity between men and women’s average superannuation balances and payouts provides some indication of the gender gap in retirement savings, examining the distribution of superannuation amongst age groups, and within age groups provides further insight into the problem. For instance, breaking the average superannuation balances down by age, shows that the gender gap widens over the lifetime for individuals, with women’s superannuation balances as a proportion of men’s balances decreasing from 71.1% (25-34 age bracket) to 46.1% (60-64 age bracket). In the Australian system, therefore, the Age Pension provides a guaranteed income, while the income generated from the second and third pillars depends on the amount invested and returns on these investments. The level of earnings of an employee determines the superannuation contribution by the employer. The earnings of a person also enables them to make voluntary contributions and accumulate other savings. On average women have lower earnings than men. Many women have greater career interruptions than men, and many are more likely to work part‑time due to caring responsibilities. This means the ability of many women to save and contribute to superannuation is more limited than for many men.

Further analysis of the data on superannuation balances shows significant inequality in the distribution of superannuation balances amongst women, with a significant majority of women holding superannuation balances that are alarmingly low. For example, in 2004, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that, despite average woman having $35 000 in superannuation, 30% of women have no superannuation, 50% have $8 000 or less and 70% have $25 000 or less’. A disparity between men aged 45-59 also exists. For example, although the average balance for these men is $87 100, 30% have $9 000 or less, 50% have $31 000 or less and 70% have $80 000 or less. However, a significant gender gap is still evident. Social Security does not guarantee any minimum benefit. A so-called special minimum does guarantee a floor for persons with a long work history of low earnings, but in practice, this is received by very few of the elderly; the regular formula generally generates a larger benefit.

The official poverty threshold does not constitute a criterion for making supplementary old-age benefits available. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ICESCR, social security includes: Systems of social insurance: This is where individuals, employers and in some cases governments make contributions to ensure people have access to income support when their earnings are interrupted or cease. Old age or retirement is one of these circumstances. The Australian Superannuation Guarantee is an example.
Universal schemes of social assistance: These are met entirely through the general resources of governments and provide important financial support and protection for people who are particularly vulnerable or need particular assistance to realise basic rights such as older people, people with a disability or other marginalised groups. The Australian Age Pension is an example

The higher likelihood of poverty for women in retirement is the end result of women being unable to enjoy their right to social security on equal basis with men. This unequal protection of their right to social security is due to systemic disadvantage that women experience as a result of the current retirement income system being linked exclusively to paid work. The Commission is concerned that the current single rate of the Age Pension is below the commonly used poverty line of 50% of median income.[60] This has a disproportionate impact on women due to the higher proportion of women in receipt of the single rate of the Age Pension.
The Commission views women’s vulnerability to poverty in retirement as a serious failing of the current retirement income system. Of all household types in Australia,[61] elderly single women are at the greatest risk of poverty, with 56.3% of these households living in poverty between 2001 and 2005. Elderly single women are also the most likely household to experience persistent poverty with over one third consistently living in poverty for the entire 5 year period between 2001 and 2005.[62]
There are a number of serious consequences of poverty for women in retirement, including the inability to pay for basic expenses such as food, housing, utilities, clothing and health expenses not covered by Medicare.
In a study on life after retirement, 43.5% of single women reported that their standard of living was worse or much worse after retirement. Of these single women, divorced women were even more likely to experience a decline in standard of living, with 54.3% of divorced or separated women reporting their standard of living had worsened, which was a higher proportion compared to women and men who were widows and women and men who were never married.[63]


Horizontal or Lifetime Redistribution

Funds that are collected from social insurance contributions is used for horizontal redistribution such as pensions, unemployment benefits, health care, maternity benefits[[#_ftn11|[11]][11]. However, pension systems differ across European countries according to various characteristics. But everyone operates some redistribution within cohort. Using data from the Luxembourg Income Study the comparative intra-generational redistributive performances of public pension transfers showed that there is wide variation among the countries but that these differences can be explained by the characteristics of the systems. This means it can contribute to social assistance and welfare regimes for welfare models such as Anglo-Saxon, Nordic and Corporative states fro Australia, Sweden, Germany and Netherlands respectively. It is also been shown that redistribution does not occur the same way among subgroups of population and that older women are the less favoured by the pension systems.[[#_ftn12|[12]][12]

However, according to sex and age of the person: 65-74[[#_ftn13|[13]][13] and older the intra-generational findings from LIS data figures was found that these figures confirm that the older you are the poorer you are; and women are poorer than men. Thus, oldest women are the poorest individuals of the elderly population. This is due to the combined effect of a higher poverty rate before transfers and a smaller poverty alleviation impact of transfers. Women start with fewer resources out of transfers than men and this is truer as they grow older. Moreover the public transfers reduce poverty by a smaller amount for women than for men. From these figures, we can conclude that the sex distinction is more penalizing than the age distinction.

The findings from the 2007 LIS comparative intra-generational study performed on subgroups analysis of redistribution show that first the older old benefit from less poverty alleviation because of lack of indexation of public transfers. Second, the women are the less favoured, they suffer a double handicap: a less attractive work history that gives them smaller pension entitlements and a longer retirement period that induces their pension benefits losing value due again to the lack of welfare indexation. Finally, the decomposition of the inequality indicator (Gini) according to age groups shows that the transfers have operated redistribution between the subgroups in reducing the gap between the mean incomes of each subgroup.

Gender-gap superannuation disparity

Hilda Survey 2007
[[#_ftn14|[14]][14] Australia

According to Evans (1996) the retirement savings (known in Australia as superannuation) of Australian women and men vary according to the numbers of children they have. In Australia women have historically tended to participate in the labour force less and earn less income than men due to a range of legal, economic and social barriers. Despite the progressive removal of these barriers over time, they continue to do so (ABS 2005). Women also have tended to have less superannuation than men (Ferris and Olsberg 2001; ABS 2001; Kelly 2006). One of the contributory factors to women’s lack of superannuation has undoubtedly been their loss of earnings from having children (Chapman et al 2001, Breusch and Gray 2004). These studies have been based on various data sources such as superannuation funds membership, life insurance account balances, statistical reports from the superannuation regulator1, surveys from the Australian Bureau of Statistic [15], and data from the Australian Tax Office.[[#_ftn16|[16]][16] (Brown, 1994; Rothman 1995; ABS 2001; Clare, 2004).

Historical Research

Australia's Superannuation System

In order to understand the current levels of superannuation savings for women in the age range 15 to 55, it is useful to consider the historical development of Australia's superannuation system over the last forty years.

The Voluntary Superannuation System
Prior to the 1980s, the provision of superannuation was not compulsory. However, government tax incentives made superannuation a particularly attractive form of remuneration for people paying high marginal tax rates. According to Foster (1988) superannuation coverage was relatively low - and uneven.

· High income earners were much more likely to have superannuation than low-income earners.
· White collar workers were more likely to have superannuation than blue collar workers.
· Public servants were more likely to have superannuation than low income earners.
· Full time workers were more likely to have superannuation than part time workers

There was still a considerable disparity in coverage rates by gender, with coverage rates being particularly low for women.

In 1974, only 15% of female employees were members of a superannuation scheme, compared to 41% of men. (Hancock et al.1977). A government enquiry into the superannuation system in the late 1970s found that many superannuation funds discriminated against women, both directly and indirectly. Some schemes simply did not allow women to join at all – a 1972 survey reported that 21% of all private sector schemes were confined to male employees. In some schemes, there were different eligibility rules for men and women – for example men were allowed to join at age 21, but women were not allowed to join until age 25. (Hancock et al. 1977). In some public sector funds, only single women were allowed to join the fund. When a woman married, her employment status was changed to "temporary employee"; she would be paid a dowry benefit; and she would then be excluded from participation in the fund. Sometimes the rules were indirectly discriminatory – for example, many funds were set up for the benefit of full time employees only - part-timers (predominantly women) were not allowed to join.

In 1984, The Sex Discrimination Act was introduced forbidding discrimination based on sex or marital status; but initially there was a blanket exemption for superannuation funds (Commonwealth of Australia 1984). Based on these findings, it is no wonder that the current superannuation assets are affected by the past history of the superannuation system and have accumulated poverty to single, older women in Australia . In 1987 the government introduced preservation requirements[[#_ftn17|[17]]], which have been gradually tightened over the years. The preservation requirements are designed to prevent people from taking superannuation benefits in cash prior to retirement[[#_ftn18|[18]]]

Australia –The means tested sometimes Beveridge model
This is associated mainly with the Australia. Here the state increasingly withdraws from a traditional role of direct service provision, contracts with providers from other sectors, and targets services on ‘problem cases’, the most dependent service users, and people with limited income. For profit service providers play an increasingly role in the system, as do NGOs. Privatization is applied to this model because of the use of for profit organisations eg. In residential care for elderly people. Ideally the liberal (or Anglo-Saxon) model emphasises the responsibility of individuals for themselves. A minimal social protection is afforded to the poor and is complemented by company or private insurance. Social transfers are smaller than in the other models, more targeted and “means tested.

Having children has a range of implications for family budgets and hence for superannuation contributions. Firstly, it reduces the wages and salaries earned by the family (it has ‘indirect costs’), particularly those of the female partner. According to Chapman et al. (2001) and Breusch and Gray (2004) the earnings women forego as a result of having children are substantial, with the majority of lost earnings being attributable to the first child. The reduction in women’s earnings resulting from having children would lead to reduced contributions in absolute terms being paid into their superannuation schemes by their employers and, where fund rules require employees to make personal contributions into superannuation funds, to women making reduced employee contributions as well. Not to mention, career breaks due to the arrival of children may lead to (unpreserved) superannuation benefits being cashed in. However this is an area of study that could build on new research that can possibly lead to further investigation beyond this study

Germany: European model of social insurance

Germany apply a specified age limit as to when tax favoured pension arrangements can be activated if the tax credits are to be preserved. In Germany the age is 60 years but it is independent of age limits in public retirement schemes. Germany offers private, tax-favoured possibilities for early retirement. In principle tax-favoured private pension arrangements may in due course offer an alternative to publicly financed early retirement. (OECD- 2005. Ageing and employment policies: Germany. Paris)

Germany and Netherlands:

The European model of social insurance: social protection is organised on occupational basis and aims at guaranteeing wage incomes. Accordingly, transfers are financed through employers’ and employees’ contributions. The redistributive efforts of the fiscal system are less pronounced than in Scandinavian countries. The model includes strong job protection and generous unemployment allowances. The employment rate is relatively low. The tax-to-GDP ratio is high. This is the model in Germany, and the Netherlands.

Germany, and Netherlands The Northern European Subsidiarity model.

The subsidiarity principle is especially strong in Germany and the Netherlands where services are provided mainly by NGOs
[[#_ftn19|[19]][17], in the former by a relatively small number of very large and long established NGOs and in the latter by many often church based NGOs. The state plays a major role in financing the NGOs. The family also has a strong primary responsibility. There are important variations between countries eg. in France services for children is predominantly a state responsibility, less so with services for elderly people.[[#_ftn20|[20]][18]

Sweden, Scandinavian model of public services:

This model has been based on the principle of universalism, with services for groups such as children at risk, people with disabilities, and elderly people readily available and paid for from general taxation. Local government plays a key role in the production and planning of PSS, with limited contributions by NGOs and a minimal role for profit organisations. This model has been admired as having strong advantages for service users: a good range and quantity of services; sensitivity to gender issues; and with a closer attention to users’ rights than other models (eg. open access to clients records, clear definition of rights to specific services). However, this Scandinavian – or more correctly ‘Nordic’ –model has been modified in recent years because of economic and political factors. Universalism is not so readily accepted and there is a growing NGO services sector as part of a policy of increasing ‘welfare pluralism’.

Demographics and Social Changes:

An additional factor is the trend for more women – the traditional family carers to enter the labour market and so become less available to care for dependent family members. The ‘traditional family’ model is also changing with increasing numbers of one parent families and families affected by divorce and remarriage. These are complex subjects with major consequences for the future of family care and social services.

Harvester Man Model: When one job is not enough -July 12 2003

In 1907 in Australia and many western countries men left school, got a job, worked full-time for 40 years or so, retired and died. If women worked at all, it was in low-paid jobs and only until they married and had children. That "Harvester man" model - the standard for the basic male wage set in the 1907 case brought by Harvester agricultural machinery - worked a treat for much of the 20th century. But it began to unravel in the 1960s and 1970s as Mrs Harvester embedded herself in paid employment. By the 1980s, endless rounds of downsizing and restructuring put an end to the Harvester model as the era of part-time and casual labour was launched. Only one quarter of all new jobs added in the 1990s were full-time jobs. Casual and part-time jobs accounted for the rest, and casuals now make up nearly a quarter of the workforce. 74 per cent of all permanent employees worked full-time in 1988, compared with 61 per cent last year. At the same time, the labour force grew from about 6 million to more than 8 million. In some industries - such as retail trade and hospitality - nearly half the workforce is casuals. Job losses have predominantly occurred in industries with high levels of full-time employment; job gains have been in industries characterised by high levels of part-time work. 1.2 million jobs have been created for women since the late 1980s, compared with 700,000 for men - but half of the new female jobs were in low-skill, low-paid occupations.

In addition, those still in full-time work are putting in longer hours and at a higher intensity than they have for a century. The central argument is that these changes have resulted in a deepening inequality in the workplace, rather than great leaps in flexibility demanded by changing lifestyles. "There have been modest gains in flexibility for workers, but not enough to meet the challenges of diversity," the academics say. "We have not witnessed a profusion of new choices for employees to tailor their work arrangements to suit their purposes. Indeed, lack of flexibility is evident, as many workers find themselves working harder, working longer, and working in jobs that are more insecure than those of a generation ago."

Co-author Dr John Buchanan, the deputy director (research) at the University of Sydney's workplace research centre, ACIRT
[[#_ftn21|[21]][19], says women have been among the winners in the shifting workplace, with the increasing availability of part-time work helping them to juggle life in the office and at home. But part-time work in itself isn't the answer. Quality is the issue - and only 8 per cent of Australia's workers are in permanent part-time jobs that come with annual leave, sick leave, superannuation and other basic entitlements. and most of them are female workers[[#_ftn22|[22]][20].

Suggestions here could be a 'flexicurity' strategy used by the Nordic model for managed and balanced flexibility on the labour market. Today there is increasing competition in goods and labour market due to world-wide economic integration as well as rapid technological and structural changes which now demand higher labour market flexibility
[[#_ftn23|[23]][21]. Therefore in order to prevent poverty risks, higher standards of social security are needed. Here, the Nordic experiences with 'flexicurity' offer examples of good practise by combining, on the one hand, deregulation on the labour market with extensive active labour market policy and, on the other hand, generous income protection in the case of unemployment paired with strong incentives to resume employment fast.

The Nordic Countries in Comparative Perspective:

A better work-life balance for working parents has become an imperative social policy issue in most contemporary welfare states and sets two objectives: to increase flexible labour forces as well as the number of day care facilities and to improve children's overall education.
[[#_ftn24|[24]][22] Drawing upon up-to-date empirical data, the volume provides detailed insights in policies targeting families, above all, women as (to be) parents and workers. It compares experiences made in Nordic countries during the last 20 years. These countries have become paragons for policies that apparently work in favour of improving the work-life balance, equal employment opportunities and public child care. The Netherlands, Germany and Australia are taken in as countries that provide contrasts in employment patterns and family-related policies. The volume is a timely contribution to ongoing debates on 'policies that work' and related quests for policy-learning in regard to boosting female employment, maintaining, even increasing, birth-rates and investing in human resources Governments of advanced European welfare states with ageing populations are struggling to reconcile what seem to be conflicting policies. On the one hand, they are trying to increase the labour market participation of women and older workers. On the other hand, they are making more demands on people to care for disabled, chronically ill and frail older relatives and friends. Those caregivers are more likely to be women and older people.

Australia and Netherlands are two countries that differ in type of welfare state, health and social care system and labour market context. The Dutch policy differs whereby the state, employers and other sections of society reciprocate carers and other dependency workers for their unpaid care giving known as 'doulia rights' (a carer's right to provide care without the risk of impoverishment). Whilst they differ, comparative studies[[#_ftn25|[25]][23] between England and Netherlands suggest that neither country show strong commitment to the right to doulia concept.

Summary of comparative findings:

In summary the information on retirement benefits and poverty obtained in the country-by-country comparative benefits table [[#_ftn26|[26]][24] are generally confirmed by this comparison. It would appear that across the Germany, Sweden and Netherlands average retirement benefits (including both public and private pensions) are quite uniform. As pointed out earlier, average figures are only general indicators that do not speak directly to the prevalence of poverty and its prevention among older single women. Row 2 displays the safeguards that have kept the poverty rate of elderly women in the Netherlands, and Sweden; elsewhere, the lower strata in the income distribution have been more likely to experience poverty in old age. In Germany, a minimum safeguard is missing, but the risk of poverty is obscured by a high average benefit, augmented by quite generous government pensions from which relatively many women benefit. In closing, a few tentative suggestions can be advanced as to what characteristics of old-age security systems emerge as most suitable for protecting older single women from poverty. There is no doubt that a minimum available to all, set above a customary relative poverty level, will be the most effective in that regard. Among our comparison group of countries, only the Netherlands has committed itself to that generous but relatively costly solution.

The second most effective arrangement would seem to be a compulsory, complementary, earnings-related second tier, either devised as such in one scheme (Sweden’s ATP). Risks remain under such arrangements, as women continue to have less complete work histories. Where complementary schemes remain voluntary (Germany, before 1985), the prevalence of old-age poverty among single women is clearly higher. Interestingly enough, such poverty issues have been debated in a relative sense even in the comparatively generous Netherlands, which also has a voluntary complementary scheme.

The third most effective arrangement appears to be providing means-tested supplements that bring up the benefit to some “adequate” level. The French system which is not compared in this study has not only merged a heterogeneous array of basic and complementary plans, but also added various case-specific, means-tested supplements, ranging from extra benefits for former working mothers with large families to the minimum old age and home-care subsidies. Interestingly though the Netherlands and Sweden have adopted this approach, in less multi-faceted form, as part of their social welfare systems.

The least effective means to cope with poverty among single elderly women is social assistance. In most countries, it is a rather residual factor that tends to be decentralized in its administration and uneven in its levels of support, as well as neglected in terms of adjustment to cost-of-living increases. Take-up of benefits tends to be low. None of the countries in our comparison that show a relatively high risk of poverty among older women (Germany and Australia) have made great headway in coping with the problem by relying on social assistance payments.

Australian single older women by comparison are far worse off than the other three countries. Data from HREOC show that the Commission is concerned that the current single rate of the Age Pension is below the commonly used poverty line of 50% of median income. This has a disproportionate impact on women due to the higher proportion of women in receipt of the single rate of the Age Pension. The Commission views women’s vulnerability to poverty in retirement as a serious failing of the current retirement income system. Of all household types in Australia,[[#_ftn27|[27]][25] elderly single women are at the greatest risk of poverty, with 56.3% of these households living in poverty between 2001 and 2005. Elderly single women are also the most likely household to experience persistent poverty with over one third consistently living in poverty for the entire 5 year period between 2001 and 2005.

Much of the international debate on the issue of population ageing has focused on pension reform in Australia and in particular reforms designed to increase long term sustainability. The wide range of reform strategies followed in different countries reflects a basic observation. Namely, that there are no ready made "one size fits all" model for retirement reform. On the contrary welfare policy reform is a highly complex matter, and the sustainability of strategies pursued is highly dependent on broad based political support and on popular acceptance. At the same time the problems facing the countries differ considerably as do their positions and approaches in addressing these challenges. (Ole Beier Sørensen and Ole Buhl).

The Australian Commission (2009) recommends strategies in the following areas to increase women’s economic security in retirement:

· removing barriers to labour market participation for women and those with caring responsibilities
· increasing life-time earnings for women by reducing the gender pay gap
· extending initiatives to increase superannuation contributions for low income earners and those on welfare payments
· ensuring the Age Pension protects individuals from poverty and fulfils Australia’s international human rights obligations for women and men to equally enjoy a right to an adequate standard of living, and to social security
· introducing measures to achieve equality in women’s representation in superannuation fund governance positions
· regular monitoring and reporting on the gender impact of Federal budgets and reforms
· independent monitoring and reporting on Australia’s progress towards achieving substantive gender equality
· reviewing the superannuation exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).[[#_ftn28|[28]][26]

It was feminist social policy scholarship that finally brought social care policies into comparative welfare state research on equal standing with social security policies.p3 [[#_ftn29|[29]][27]Gender-sensitive research has shown the inadequacy of the previous mainstream comparisons that ignored the unequal relationships of women and men with European welfare states. Findings from comparative care research have remodelled previous welfare state typologisations. Recently, it has become widely recognised that social care policies affect considerably the opportunities of women and men to participate in paid work. Where they exist, flexible care services are a major support for the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities. In order to promote participation in paid labour, these services need to be generally available and affordable. The connection between childcare and mothers' employment has been known for a longer time but now also the effects of social care services to the position of working fathers as well as working carers of older and disabled people have been placed under comparative study.

Qualitative Research : Harvester model versus hidden and unspoken aims of Policy

Interesingly the family policy makers may be reifying their aims according to Schunter-Kleeman (1995, 76) who has categorised the main instruments which states use in implementing their family policy objectives to five groups of measures: (1) direct monetary transfers (family/child allowances), (2) indirect monetary transfers (tax relief), (3) publicly financed services (crèches/day-care), (4) leave arrangements and flexible working hours (parental leave, part-time work), and (5) housing benefits (for single parents, large families and older people). The officially announced aims usually include objectives like ‘diminishing child poverty’ and ‘better reconciliation of work and family life’. However, Schunter-Kleeman also identifies several hidden and unspoken aims of family policies. These include relief of the labour market, raising fertility, patronising the better-off middle classes, encouraging women to keep house for their husbands, punishing unmarried motherhood and stabilising the male breadwinner/female dependent model. However, these ‘secret dimensions’ of family policy are practised very differently in different European welfare states.


Gender gap disparity in welfare states continues.

Most often than not it has always been women who provide care-giving work, whether looking after older or younger people, the ‘liberal’ welfare regime in today’s society historically continues from the19th or the 20th century with the harvester model. Though a significant number of men do care for adults and contribute to care for children, women tend to devote more time to care and to provide more intensive care (Lewis 1997). Within comparative research on care for single, older women, the role of Australian human rights commission and other world organisations has been significant. As also the OECD has given considerable attention to the needs of the growing population of very old people, raising these to a major social policy challenge for the OECD countries (OECD 1994a & 1997). As mentioned earlier in this study the lack of reliable quantitative data is partly due to the existing large variations between definitions and categories of different types of services pension schemes cross nationally. Naturally, this leads to discrepancies in national definitions and considerable overlap between different types of facilities which makes cross-country comparisons problematic (European Commission 1993a; Sipilä 1997a).

This last case study below highlights the very real impact of women’s inequality over the lifecycle. The gender gap in retirement savings and retirement incomes is a consequence of events across a woman’s lifecycle. It stems from deep and systemic gender inequality – ingrained attitudes towards gender roles and caring; women’s vulnerability to violence; the gender pay gap; constrained choices and decisions about paid work and care; the impact of divorce; discrimination and harassment. Each of these experiences affects subsequent opportunities and finally leads to women accumulating poverty instead of financial security.

Anonymous, Blog entry (2007) Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ‘Listening Tour’ website at 14 December 2007.

Because I was unable to access superannuation funds through my work in earlier years I had to return to work at the age of 66 [years], because I found it was impossible to maintain a house on my own and pay service bills etc. on the old age pension. I am now 72 [years] old and still working…I love my work and am dedicated to it - but long hours are having a deleterious effect on my health and the constant worry of not being able to meet the greedy interest rate payments is very stressful. ..Paying [a loan] back, out of a pension, is impossible - and women don’t realise this until they have been forced in to the situation of using their only asset to try to achieve a liveable income.

Nevertheless, the ageing of the population has led to the current situation where there are a much larger number of older women than of older men requiring support in their everyday lives. Feminist social policy scholarship that started in the 1970s have gained considerable leverage in comparative research particularly in the 1990s which has focused on presenting criticisms and alternatives to conceptualisations of Esping- Andersen (1990). As a result of social construct and cultural trends, women have been noticed only when they are in paid employment and the amount of their unpaid work in caring has remained unrecognised. Ostensibly, research tradition has been criticised for being gender-blind, for disregarding the unequal relations with which men and women are connected to the welfare state.

Across the EU, it is mainly women who seek to balance work and family life through part-time and other forms of ‘atypical’ work. The future suggest a new paradigm of welfare states in Europe and Australia, inspired maybe by the Scandinavian model, so the impact of social protection as a productive factor increases. Historically like Australia the social protection systems are extremely heterogeneous in the EU, which reflect different histories and different organisations of social relations. Each country manages risks in its own way.

It is not surprising to find that the Scandinavian (or Nordic or social-democratic) model is the most comprehensive one, with a high degree of emphasis on redistribution, social inclusion and universality. There is a high level of social protection entitlement given to all citizens, meaning that dependence of the individual on the market and on one’s work is lowest. They are complemented by occupational benefits agreed by social partners and covering almost all the labour force. In addition, the Scandinavian countries have been successful in generating high employment rates, especially for female and older workers ad at reducing gender inequalities in the labour market especially for female and older workers. A strong social dialogue and close cooperation of the social partners with the government characterise the countries that can be subsumed under this ideal-type such as Sweden.

Comparative study of the four models from Eurostat suggests though that these models are not so finite when you look at them from one country to another. Some countries have characteristics of both continental and Scandinavian countries (the Netherlands, Austria). Domestic specificities are very strong: for instance the Finnish pension system is very different from the Swedish one, although the two countries are generally considered as Scandinavian ones. France and Germany are continental countries, but they run different policies in many fields like family benefits. The UK health system is not typical of a liberal model. The Netherlands is the only country where the share of social protection spending has been significantly reduced. Anglo-Saxon countries spend little on old-age pensions, continental countries quite a lot. The picture is more contrasted for other models. Swedish spending on pensions differs widely from the Finnish one.

By nature, the liberal model such as Australia favours assistance systems complemented by private insurance systems. Compared to Sweden with the Scandinavian model which is based on universal systems complemented in practice by more or less universal occupational systems (for pensions).

As Esping-Andersen (2002, p. 3) pointed out. And he proceeded: “..we cannot afford not to be egalitarians in the advanced economies of the twenty-first century. ….there is a very good argument that equality of opportunities and life chances is becoming sine qua non for efficiency Our human capital constitutes the single most important resource that we must mobilise in order to ensure a dynamic and competitive knowledge economy. We are facing huge demographic imbalances with very small working age cohorts ahead, and to sustain the elderly we must maximise the productivity of the young.”


· Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Internet access November 30
· Australian Department of Families, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs ( provides general supervision.
· Australian Centrelink ( administers the programs through 401 customer service centers and 16 area support offices.
· Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority ( and the Australian Taxation Office ( regulate private superannuation funds
· Statistics Germany Internet At 23 Nov 2009 [1] [1]
· Swedish Social Insurance Agency ( provides central administration and supervision.
· Urponen, K. Lectures 1-8 Articles on comparative research social welfare and labour policy

[[#_ftnref1|[1]]1] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Pension Review Background Paper (2008) p 6. At (viewed 9 February 2009);
[[#_ftnref2|[2]]2] LIS 2008 EUROSTAT
[[#_ftnref3|[3]]3] Siegenthaler, J Social Security Bulletin +Vol.59,No 3-Full 1996
[[#_ftnref4|[4]]4] HREOC, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
[[#_ftnref5|[5]]5] Australian Humans Rights Commission 2009

[[#_ftnref7|[7]]7]Urponen, 2009, Comparative Research - European Social Services pdf(p4)
[[#_ftnref8|[8]]8] Urponen . P8
[[#_ftnref9|[9]]9] Broderick, E September, 2009 Australian Human Rights Commission

[[#_ftnref10|[10]]10] The Australian Human Rights Commission (‘the Commission’) makes this submission to the Review Panel on Australia’s future tax system (‘the Review’). The submission specifically addresses Australia’s retirement income system.p59[49]

[[#_ftnref11|[11]]11] [Slides 95-98 Urponen 2009]
[[#_ftnref12|[12]]12] Lefèbvre M, (2007): The Redistributive Effects of Pension Systems in Europe: A Survey of Evidence Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper Series Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), asbl Working Paper No. 457
[[#_ftnref13|[13]]13] A Survey of Evidence Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper Series Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), asbl Working Paper No. 457 p9

[[#_ftnref14|[14]]14] Parr, Nick, Shauna Ferris & Stephane Mahuteau. (July 2007) “The Impact of Children on Australian Women’s and Men’s Superannuation”. HILDA Research Conference Paper.
[[#_ftnref15|[15]]15] The current regulator is the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and prior to 1998 it was the Insurance and Superannuation Commissioner
[[#_ftnref16|[16]]16] Superannuation savings are subject to a range of tax deductions, rebates, and taxes. Therefore the Australian Tax Office can be the source of data on various aspects of superannuation contributions and benefits
[[#_ftnref17|[17]]17] The preservation requirements were introduced under the regulations to the Occupational Superannuation Standards Act 1987.
[[#_ftnref18|[18]]18] Initially the preservation requirements only applied to part of the benefit, i.e. it was possible to take part
of the benefit in cash on resignation. However the rules were gradually tightened over the years - any
benefits arising from contributions made after 1 July 1999 must be fully preserved. A preservable benefit
cannot be taken out of the superannuation system unless the member meets a condition of release, e.g.

death, total and permanent disability, retirement after age 55, etc. The rules are quite complicated and have changed frequently over the years. ISSA

[[#_ftnref19|[19]]19] Non-Government development Organisations
[[#_ftnref20|[20]]20] The main purpose of this report is to provide a ‘map’ of European personal social services (PSS) for the Council of Europe’s (CoE) work in 2003-04
[[#_ftnref21|[21]]21] ACIRT Australian Workplace Research Centre , University Sydney: ****
[[#_ftnref22|[22]]22] Anderson and Buchanan Fragmented Future 2003University Sydney ACIRT
[[#_ftnref23|[23]]23] Urponen tutorial notes and slides from 2009
[[#_ftnref24|[24]]24] Finch, N. (2008) Family policies in the UK, in I. Ostner and C. Schmitt (eds.), Family Policies in the Context of Family Change: The Nordic countries in comparative perspective, VS-Verlag, Wiesbaden, pp. 129-154.
[[#_ftnref25|[25]]25] Arksey, H. and Moree, M. (2008) Supporting working carers: do policies in England and The Netherlands reflect 'doulia rights'?, Health and Social Care in the Community, 16, 6, 649-657.
[[#_ftnref26|[26]]26] Siegenthaler, J Social Security Bulletin +Vol.59,No 3-Full 1996
[[#_ftnref27|[27]]27] HREOC[61]
[[#_ftnref29|[29]]29] Comparative research on care. pdf Optima Urponen p3

[[#_ftnref30|[30]]30] Comparative research on care.pdf P.37