A University of Sydney analysis noted that women have been disproportionately economically affected by the pandemic, as they are over-represented in lower-paid, insecure and casual jobs.
“Women’s employment has been hardest hit, contracting by 7.4 per cent between February and May 2020, compared with 5.6 per cent for men. This equates to 457,000 jobs lost by women,” said Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill from the University of Sydney’s Department of Political Economy.
“We expect this pattern to deepen amid the prolonged economic downturn.”
The findings come amid accusations that the Victorian government has taken an approach to drafting the state’s reopening roadmap that disproportionately impacts women harder.
The University of Sydney noted that policies such as investment in social infrastructure — including education, health and care, and greater subsidies for early childhood education and care — would boost employment and improve gender inequalities in the labour market.
It noted a study of seven OECD countries which showed that public investment equal to 1 per cent of GDP in labour-intensive care industries generates more total employment than investment in construction.
Should that be applied to the Australian market, it estimated that this employment ratio would be nearly five to one.
“This is not to suggest that stimulus should not be made in construction; only that government should take a more balanced approach to fiscal policy,” Associate Professor Hill said.
In addition, Associate Professor Hill said that while affordable early childhood education and care (ECEC) is critical for the economy at all times, it is especially important now.
“There is particular concern that where the out-of-pocket cost of ECEC for families facing unemployment or significant economic insecurity remains high, it will be women who forgo employment and undertake child and other care duties,” she said.
“Results from initial surveys by the sector confirm this possibility and suggest current ECEC policy will not support a dynamic and gender-inclusive economic recovery.”