I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t been affected by COVID. Everyone has been touched in some way — through their employment, their schools, their routines, their leisure, their travel plans, their scheduled surgeries, their events or their social catch ups. But further research into the impacts of COVID is showing there’s a skew towards females facing a greater financial fallout from the pandemic.
So how exactly are females more affected?
- The industries required to close in the initial shutdowns – Accommodation, Food services, Arts, Recreation and Retail – have a higher representation of female employees. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also stated that out of 14 of the 19 sectors in the economy, women took the biggest percentage hit on job losses compared to the five sectors that had affected men the most.
- For those working on reduced hours, females are facing a larger reduction of 11.5% in hours, compared to a 7.5% reduction in hours for males.
- With the closure of day care and educational institutions, care-taking responsibilities have a higher likelihood of falling into the role of the mother. Women already perform 3 times as many hours of domestic duties within a household than men, with COVID further exasperating their ability to continue in the labour force or be adaptable for their job.
- Women are already said to retire with 47% less superannuation than men, which will be significantly impacted by both superannuation withdrawals and time out of the workforce.
- Economic fragility is said to increase domestic abuse and decrease a women’s options for living alone. In times of financial pressure, there are a growing numbers in cases of ‘coercive control’ of money.
- The stimulus packages developed in response to COVID “indicate that the policy has not undertaken distributional analysis by gender,” according to RMIT Associate Professor Banita Bissoondoyal-Bheenick. Arguably, this would indicate recovery packages might be less effective at delivering support to the female population.
What’s interesting about this pandemic is that previous economic downturns have usually disproportionality impacted males, with sectors like construction and manufacturing taking cyclical hits over the services sector. But in the pursuit of the gender pay and wealth gap, where will this leave us post COVID?
While women have been impacted greatly within industries closures – the existing inequalities present in the health and social care, that remain functioning on the front lines, are perpetuating the wealth gap further too. “Data shows that of the 1.7 million workers in this sector, four out of five are female. But it’s also one of the sectors that has the biggest wage gap, with men earning nearly 24% more a week on average than women,” RMIT Associate Professor Banita Bissoondoyal-Bheenick said, “Lower income for women means lower independence … and lower domestic autonomy.”
With the health and social care industries operating at a higher rate than pre-COVID, this could be creating a divergent path on recovering ground on the pay gap, leaving current pay structures in place well into the future. This concept could extend to teachers & childcare workers who make up 72% of the education workforce and retail, of which 60% consists of female staff.
Another critical aspect of the post-COVID landscape, is the affects to superannuation with females already retiring with, on average, 47% less superannuation than men. “The gender gap in the Australian superannuation system is a real issue that sees women financially disadvantaged in retirement. It was an issue before the current crisis, and it will be an even bigger problem when we emerge from the recession,” Kelly Power, General Manager of Colonial First State Super said.
One prominent suggestion that has gained traction in past weeks is to overhaul childcare costs, to bring women back into the workforce and provide a much needed boost to the economy. The campaign ‘Make it Free’ suggests if the Federal Government should spend an extra $5 billion a year on childcare subsidies, the pay off would be an $11-billion-a-year increase in GDP and $150,000 in higher lifetime earnings for the typical Australian mother.
Doesn’t sound like a bad idea, no?
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regard to your circumstances.