Women bear the brunt of lockdowns but are poised to bounce back

Women bear the brunt of lockdowns but are poised to bounce back

September 18, 2021

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Women are bearing the brunt of the collapse in lockdown-affected job markets but are poised to recover strongly once restrictions lift and may even find their way back into better-paying positions.

Special research by EY shows almost 100,000 women compared with 73,000 men have left the jobs market over the past two months, during which NSW, Victoria and the ACT have been fully or partly in lockdown to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Women are bearing the brunt of lockdowns, losing hours and spending time on home learning.Credit:iStock

Total female employment levels have fallen by 1.4 per cent and hours worked by women by 6.3 per cent. This compares to declines of 0.4 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively for men.

EY Oceania chief economist Jo Masters said every time a lockdown had been imposed since last year, women’s employment and working hours had taken a larger hit than those of their male counterparts.

This was largely due to the industries in which women worked, such as retail. Women were also much more likely to carry the burden of supervising children who were learning at home.

Ms Masters said the end of home learning would definitely help women get back into the workforce.

“Getting kids back to school is critical for how women come out of these lockdowns,” she said. “Women continue to take most of the burden of home schooling, so getting kids safely back to school is going to be very important to whether women bounce back out of this lockdown like they have in previous ones.”

Jobs figures this week showed in NSW alone, women’s employment had fallen by 137,400 since the imposition of lockdowns across the state. Women accounted for 63 per cent of all job losses in the state.

Ms Masters said after previous lockdowns, there were sharp improvements in women’s employment and working hours.

Once the current NSW, ACT and Victorian lockdowns ended, this was likely to occur again, she said. And with pre-lockdown job shortages across a range of industries, there was a chance for women to find a better job.

EY chief economist Jo Masters says there is now an opportunity for women to find better-paying jobs.

“This might be the best opportunity in years for women to look around for a job that might offer better pay or fit their schedules better or better uses their skills,” she said.

Separate research by online job search site Indeed suggests the current lockdowns are biting a little deeper than those earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

It found during August there was an increase in the number of people “urgently” looking for work, mostly in the lockdown states of NSW and Victoria.

In NSW, 13.1 per cent of all Indeed respondents said they were urgently looking for work compared with 8.1 per cent in July. Across Victoria, the proportion rose to 11.1 per cent from 7.8 per cent.

“Increased urgency among job seekers is precisely what you’d expect in a deteriorating economic environment triggered by strict lockdowns. Loss of hours, unemployment and reduced job security can be powerful incentives for seeking a new job,” Indeed’s Asia-Pacific economist, Callam Pickering, said.

The company’s research is based on a survey of 3500 people in the jobs market.

Almost 30 per cent of people aged between 35 and 44 were “urgently” looking for work, the highest proportion of any age group.

Mr Pickering said this group traditionally had considerable financial responsibilities, including a mortgage and dependent children.

Among those not looking for work, about 20 per cent said they had a large enough financial cushion. The single largest reason for not seeking employment was fear of COVID-19.

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