A new study has found Australian women retire with less than half the amount of superannuation than men.

Not So Super, For Women’, by think-tank Per Capita, says a woman’s median superannuation total by retirement is about $80,000 - 47 per cent of the average for a man the same age.

Researcher David Hetherington said women retire with money for just three years’ of modest retirement living.

“Mothers in particular are penalised compared to women without children and even men without children, and it's fathers who are positively rewarded by the income and super system,” he said.

“Super was designed in the '80s and '90s for a different model of work and a different model of social structure.

“The man went to work 40-plus hours a week. It was assumed that women would have a man at home that would do the earning.”

He said women were disadvantaged as they are increasingly employed in low-paid, part-time positions.

The papers include some policy changes to help, including tracking super balances and offering ‘accumulation pathways’ to those falling behind.

“A top-up from government for people whose balances have fallen too far below the pathway towards a decent retirement income is another, so that government will be putting in another 2.5 per cent for them,” Mr Hetherington said.

“Government should pay super contributions on its current paid parental leave scheme and we think enterprise agreements with employers and unions should be made to paid parental leave schemes.”

Data for the study came from a poll of 4,000 Australian Services Union members, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household, Income and Labour Dynamics survey.