With restrictions being eased on a weekly basis, and lockdowns slowly lifting, Australians are starting to see a clear light at the end of the tunnel of the coronavirus crisis. However, when it comes to work – and particularly the employment of women – much of the damage from COVID-19 has already been done.
Last week, it was reported that the jobless rate in Australia had hit the highest level since September 2015. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) added that between March and April 2020, full-time employment had decreased by 220,500 and part-time employment by 373,800 due to COVID-19 lockdowns. That equates to an overall drop in employment of 7.5% in just over one month.
They’re pretty devastating figures, and to make matters worse, the ABS also found that more women dropped out of employment than men. Between March and April, female employment decreased by 8.1%, while male employment fell by 6.2%.
In an interview with SBS News, associate professor Alysia Blackham said, “women were already overrepresented in insecure work and are more likely to be on casual contracts with no paid entitlements, so there is no obligation to employ them on an ongoing basis or ensure certain hours.”
Speaking of female empowerment, hear Sandra Sully speak about her own experiences below:
The closure of schools has also had an impact on female employment as more women are taking on the role of caregiver, teacher and daycare worker making the hunt for new jobs harder. For single mums, it gets even more difficult.
Sadly, it’s not only the employment of Australian women that the economic downturn is affecting, either. In the U.S, more than 700,000 jobs were lost in the first wave of layoffs and nearly 60% of those jobs were held by women.
In London, female employees under 25 were among the worst affected due to non-essential business closures, and women of all ages were about a third more likely to be affected than men.
Sophie Walker, the chief executive of charity The Young Women’s Trust said, “young women are let down by an education system that still funnels them into the jobs society pays and values less; they are let down by sexist workplaces and unfair parenting policies.”
While we are starting to see Australian businesses reopen as safely as possible, there needs to be continued focus on benefits like JobKeeper and JobSeeker to ensure women – and all those affected by COVID-19 – are supported in the journey back to work.
Women have fought so hard to make progress in the world of workplace gender equality, we can’t go backwards now.
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