What is the gender retirement gap and how can we fix it?

3 min read
25 March, 2024

After a life of working, we all deserve to retire with dignity. But the fact is, the average woman in New Zealand retires with far less than the average man.

The gender retirement gap is caused in part by a pay gap. Men are paid 9.2% more on average, and this can have an outsized effect on retirement savings later in life - but there’s more to it than that. Let’s take a closer look.

What is the gender retirement gap in New Zealand?

The average man has a KiwiSaver balance 20% higher than the average woman in New Zealand, according to a Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission study. That’s a difference of $5,492. 

This widens later in life and the average man retires with a balance that’s $13,149 higher. That’s despite the fact that women tend to live longer on average, so their savings have to stretch further.

What causes the gender retirement gap?


The gender pay gap might the most obvious reason for the gender retirement gap, but it’s not that simple. 

Women tend to take on more unpaid work

Because women take on more unpaid but essential work like raising children, they are less likely to be engaged in paid employment.

As of December 2023, 64.5% of women 15 years and above were employed, compared to 73.6% of men, according to the Ministry for Women

Women are more likely to work part time

This is a two-for-one. Because women do more unpaid work, they are more likely to work part-time or in casual arrangements and thus be ‘underutilised’ - meaning they want to work more hours but aren’t or can’t.

As of December 2023, 195,000 women were underutilised in the workforce compared to 142,000 men.

Women suffer a motherhood penalty

When women return to work after a period caring for children or doing other unpaid work, they often suffer a ‘motherhood penalty’, where they’re disadvantaged in areas such as pay, progression, and security of employment. 

Women who take longer off tend to suffer from an even larger retirement gap. In fact, after a year off, the average woman has $15,000 less in her KiwiSaver at 65 and women who switch to part-time employment or leave paid work could have $58,000 to $318,000 less, according to NZIER

As a result of all this, women save less and generally have less later in life. In fact, a recent FSC study found that 69% of women do not feel financially prepared for retirement. 

How can we fix the gender retirement gap?

The gender retirement gap is a big societal- problem, so it requires big, societal solutions.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Our society, companies, industry bodies and individuals could challenge the notion that women are the default carers, often giving up or putting their careers on hold to look after children. 
  • Encourage fathers to Fathers or Partners to take their entitlements of one week of unpaid leave if they’ve worked for a company for six months for at least an average of 10 hours a week, or two weeks of unpaid leave if they’ve worked for a company for 12 months for at least an average of 10 hours a week.
  • Alternatively, if a one parent is taking time off they can ask their partners to contribute to their KiwiSaver account so that their savings don’t suffer. 
  • KiwiSaver contributions are currently tied to employment - if you stop working, you stop contributing(however you can ask Inland Revenue to deduct your KiwiSaver contributions from your paid parental leave payments).
  • If access to and funding of childcare services was improved, this could increase the ability for women to return to work if they want to. 
  • Parents and schools need to teach children how to achieve financial independence. This will help to encourage all members of a household to take shared responsibility for financial matters and empower children to grow up feeling confident in managing their finances..
  • Flexible working should be encouraged for both men and women. This can help enable parents to return to work early should they choose to, and fit work around childcare. 

The changes required to address the gender pay and gender retirement gaps won’t happen overnight.

But if more people are made aware of these issues, and solutions are openly discussed, progress can be made and there’s no reason the problem can’t be solved - so that women in New Zealand can retire with the same comfort, dignity and independence as men. 



This ‘'What is the gender retirement gap and how can we fix it’ blog is general information only. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the FSC. It is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and does not take your individual circumstances and financial situation into account. We encourage you to seek assistance from a trusted registered financial adviser, legal or other professional advice.


The names of any third parties are additional resources that you access at your own risk and the FSC takes no responsibility for any third-party content.


The FSC and its employees make no express or implied representations or give any warranties regarding this blog, and we accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, cost or expense (whether direct or indirect) incurred by you as a result of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this blog.  

March 2024. 

Subscribe to our blog