Addressing the gender pension gap



KiwiSaver started on 1 July 2007 yet already there is a significant gap between the balances of men relative to women and this gap is growing rapidly.

The reasons are well known:

On average, men earn more than women in every country on earth* and this has a flow on effect on retirement savings. The gender pension gap is much wider than the gender pay gap.

Low paid care workers and solo parents (usually women) often opt out of KiwiSaver as they can’t afford to make contributions.

Women are less likely to receive a promotion than a similarly qualified male, especially during the years when women may start a family1

Women are over represented in the lower paid caring professions than men.

After taking time out for children women often return on a part time basis to support family life.

Yet we know women have a longer life expectancy than men. They should retire with more money not less, to fund their longer average retirement.

Globally women are severely disadvantaged by pension schemes based on contributions across their working life.

Society does not value unpaid work in the family and community. Studies have tried to quantify the value of the unpaid work women do, for example how much it would cost to outsource cleaning, preparing meals and driving children to sports and school?  One US study suggested US40,000 per annum

New Zealand Superannuation is a great leveler in that respect. In its current form it is a gender neutral, universal scheme, based on residency, not years of paid contribution. The risk for women is in the future NZ Super is scaled back in favour of compulsory KiwiSaver savings, where gender disparities are already obvious.

According to Westpac research 52% of men have investments outside of their KiwiSaver accounts compared to 39% of women.

We also know that when women do invest they tend to be overly conservative.

What are some of the steps women can take to help fund their retirement?

  1. Take an interest in your KiwiSaver investment, it is important! You are unlikely to reach retirement age wishing you had less money saved.
  2. Ensure you contribute. It may not be easy but try to minimise periods of non- contribution, even while on parental leave.
  3. If nothing else make the minimum contributions; $87 per month is enough to qualify for the Government contribution of $521 per year. That is a 50% return on your money even before investment returns.
  4. Ensure you are taking a level of risk appropriate for your age. Being too conservative can reduce the long term returns of a diversified portfolio. Markets are risky in the short term, much less so in the long term.
  5. Increase your financial literacy to become a more confident investor with more understanding of investment risk. Try the Commission for Financial Capability website or .
  6. Speak to one of our financial advisers for guidance. We can help you optimise your KiwiSaver investment and you may be ready to start a portfolio of additional investments.


We are living longer, healthier lives and any additional retirement income can help deliver greater lifestyle choices across those long years of retirement. Create a richer life.


* (OECD 2016, The Economist 2017).

  1. In fact the gender pay gap in New Zealand is relatively low, better than in Australia, the UK and the USA. Out of interest the largest pay gaps are in Japan, Estonia and Korea.



This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.