The COVID recession hit women particularly hard – they were more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to do a lot more unpaid work, and less likely to get government support.
At the peak of the recession in April last year, almost 8 per cent of Australian women had lost their jobs – twice the proportion of men who had. Women’s hours at work were down 12 per cent, compared to 7 per cent for men.
Women are being left behind in the recovery.
Almost a million women are looking for more work in Australia today.
Women are more likely to be underemployed than men with an underemployment rate around 50 per cent higher.
Two thirds of jobs created since May are part time and 60 per cent are casual. Of the women in work, 1.4 million do not have access to paid leave entitlements.
And while women are returning to work now, the Grattan Institute says the economic effects of time out of the workforce are magnified for women, especially mothers – six months out of work can add another $100,000 to the $2 million average lifetime earnings gap between men and women.
For eight long years this Government has neglected women.
Last year’s Budget turned its back on women – with nothing in it to get more women into work, despite women being more likely to work in sectors heavily impacted by shut downs and in casualised industries that shed jobs and were excluded from JobKeeper.
Yet the Government’s budget response did nothing to help these women. More direct support flowed to the male-dominated construction and energy sectors than to all other sectors combined.
Many sectors that have a high proportion of female workers missed out on meaningful assistance, including higher education, the arts and tourism (where women lost their jobs at almost twice the rate men did).
The Grattan Institute has estimated that two thirds of spending in the “JobMaker Plan” supported male job creation, with only one third supporting job creation benefiting women, despite research showing that investment in labour-intensive, female-dominated care industries generates more new jobs than investment in construction.
The Government’s failure to match its recovery package to need is leading to a crisis of underemployment and insecure work for women – locking them into a lifetime of economic insecurity.
The Government’s own Budget papers confirm that women missed out on support under JobKeeper. Women were only 40 per cent of JobKeeper recipients in January. We know that at least 200,000 Australian women who work in the accommodation, food services, and retail trade sectors alone missed out on the JobKeeper payment due to its exclusion of casual workers. Women were twice as likely as men to have their JobKeeper payments halved because of cuts for part-timers.
The Government has been forced to admit that the centrepiece from their last budget, the $4 billion JobMaker Hiring Credits program, only supported 1,000 of the 450,000 jobs the Government claimed it would. Many women over the age of 35 were deliberately excluded from this program and have not been properly supported to get work or more work.
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg say they will drive the unemployment rate down below 5 per cent but they do not have a plan for getting women into secure jobs with decent pay.
While there is some well overdue support for care sectors in this Budget, the Government has done little to make sure the jobs created are secure and properly paid.
There is nothing in the Budget for the 110,000 women who have been looking for work for more than a year. Women looking for work will continue in the job hunt with even less support under the Government’s employment services changes.
Australian women on modest incomes will only receive a temporary tax break before the election and be dealt a tax hike after it. At the same time the highest income earners will enjoy a permanent tax cut forever. These tax cuts will see men get more than twice the benefit that women do.
The Government has failed to adopt Labor’s national push to close the gender pay gap – refusing to make it easier to deliver pay rises for women in low paid care sectors or to make companies publicly disclose their gender pay gaps.
And they’ve refused to adopt key measures in Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs plan to improve job security.