The last decade has witnessed an important shift in public policy concerning retirement incomes, and correspondingly, in the roles of the state and the market in financing provisions for older Australians. The Hawke/Keating Labor Government, which institutionalised compulsory superannuation for most employees, claimed its policies would see superannuation become a primary vehicle for income in later life, and thereby reduce demand for the age pension. This paper, which forms part of the theoretical backdrop to a qualitative study of people’s plans and perceptions regarding retirement incomes, starts with a brief history of retirement income provisions in Australia and then discusses the concept of social rights, as developed by T.H. Marshall. The paper addresses the question of how superannuation is to be conceptualised in terms of rights, with particular attention to the consequences of such rights for women. It argues that the concept of social right is not applicable to superannuation, based as it is on self-provision and labour market performance, and explores other sorts of rights that surround superannuation: property and industrial rights, rights which have historically been less accessible to women than to men.