The pandemic has deepened economic inequalities between women and men, new research finds

The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic has hit women harder than men, and will deepen inequalities between women and men in the long-term, new research has found.

Research by policy think-tank the Grattan Institute, shows that women have suffered a “triple whammy” as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Women lost more jobs than men — almost 8% at the peak of the crisis, compared to 4% for men.

Women took on the majority of unpaid domestic work, including supervising children studying from home. On average, women did an extra hour each day more than men, on top of their existing heavier load.

Women were also less likely to get government support, such as JobKeeper, which excluded short-term casuals.

The Grattan Institute’s report states that despite a strong economic recovery combined with the re-opening of schools, unemployment and underemployment among women remains too high.

Women who became unemployed or voluntarily left work last year face longer-term impacts on their wages and career progression.

Six months out of work can add another $100,000 to the average $2 million disparity in lifetime earnings that exists between men and women with children in Australia.

Released on International Women’s Day, the report argues that the government should inject more money into services sectors, childcare, and aged care.

Grattan Institute chief executive and lead author Danielle Wood says many Australians – particularly women – suffered more than they needed to in the COVID recession because of the design of the government response.

“Policy makers seemed oblivious to the fact that this recession was different to previous crises — women now make up almost half the workforce, and they are overwhelmingly employed in the industries that were hit hardest by the government-imposed lockdowns,” Wood said in a statement.

For example, between February and May last year, the construction sector lost less than 5% of its work hours but got more than $35 billion of government assistance, whereas the hospitality sector lost more than 47% of its work hours but got only about $1.3 billion of direct government assistance.

The report calls on governments to ensure that any future stimulus goes further than the construction sector and includes expansions of social programs and services to help address the inequalities caused by COVID-19.

The federal budget will be delivered by the Treasurer later this year. While the budget is usually handed down on the second Tuesday in May, a date for 2021 is yet to be confirmed.


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