Superannuation theft is something that is affecting Millions of working Australians.
Superannuation is workers’ deferred wages. Each year $5.9 billion is stolen from 2.98 million
workers in superannuation. That’s 1 in every 3 workers. Unpaid superannuation compounds
over time. After ten years, Australia’s stolen super equates to $102 billion dollars in lost
retirement savings. That’s an average of $2,000 per person per year underpaid. Underpayment
of super is associated with a 47% loss in super balance at retirement. This means that people
aren’t just losing occasional payments, they’re getting ripped off systemically.
supplementary submission for the Inquiry into Superannuation Guarantee non-payment in
March 2017 stated the following;
‘Underpayment of employer SG superannuation is associated with a 47 percent difference
in superannuation balance for eligible employees aged under 65. The average balance difference
between employees underpaid in 2013-14 and those that were not was $19,700. This large
difference suggests that SG underpayment persists for many years for some employees’
When workers’ wages are unduly suppressed, then the normal flow of employer contributions
into their superannuation accounts is also constrained. They will have smaller superannuation
balances when they retire, and will consequently experience a lasting reduction in post-retirement incomes.
Moreover, governments will share a significant portion of the resulting
damage: they will collect less in taxes on superannuation contributions and investment income,
and will pay out more in means-tested Age Pension benefits (since workers’ superannuation
incomes will be smaller).
These significant, lasting consequences from wage-suppression
strategies should be documented and considered. They provide a powerful motive for all
stakeholders to challenge employers’ wage-cutting initiatives. They also should be of direct
concern to superannuation trustees and administrators.
Vulnerable workers are experiencing particularly high levels of wage theft
In a recent empirical study by UNSW they found a quarter (25%) of all international students
earned $12 per hour or less and 43% earned $15 or less in their lowest paid job. The National
Temporary Migrant Work Survey was the most comprehensive study of wage theft and working
conditions among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in
The survey drew on responses from 4,322 temporary migrants across 107
nationalities of every region in the world, working in a range of jobs in all states and territories.
Its unprecedented scope indicates the breadth, depth and complexity of non-compliance with
Australian labour law.
Interestingly, university students did not earn substantially higher wages than students at
vocational and English language colleges. Students who worked more than 20 hours per week
(potentially breaching their visa conditions) earned substantially lower wages than other
The key points from the survey were the following;
A quarter of all international students earn $12 per hour or less and 43 per cent earn $15 or less
in their lowest paid job;
A third of backpackers earn $12 per hour or less and almost half earn $15 or less in their lowest
Workers from Asian countries including China, Taiwan and Vietnam receive lower wage rates
than those from North America, Ireland and the UK. Chinese workers are also more likely to be
paid in cash.