While there’s no doubt COVID-19 continues to affect us all, the pain has been more intense for some members of our society. Evidence shows the pandemic hit our young people the hardest, as well as those without secure work and women in general. According to the Grattan Institute, “women are recovering from a ‘triple-whammy’ – they were more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to do a lot more unpaid work, and less likely to get government support”.
Why did women suffer more?
What’s caused this ‘triple-whammy’? For the most part, it’s structural: more women work in COVID-affected industries and many have been culturally conditioned to shoulder more of the caring burden (of both children and the elderly, who were hit hard by the crisis).
They also received far less government support. For instance, the male-dominated construction industry lost fewer than 5% of work hours during February and May 2020, but received more than $35bn in government support, “whereas the hospitality sector lost more than 47% of its work hours but got only about $1.3bn of direct government assistance” (Grattan Institute, 2021).
And women started from a lower financial base. In 2020, Australia’s national gender pay gap was 14%, with women earning an average of around $1,550 per week (full time), compared to around $1,800 for men (McKell Institute, 2020).
Trans and gender-diverse people also continue to experience significant struggle amidst the pandemic for similar reasons to women, but also because they were less able to access support networks and resources. Many young trans and gender-diverse people moved back in with their families due to a lack of work and, for some people, this meant being cut off from supportive networks and exposure to discrimination.
The road to recovery
So how can we ensure women aren’t further impoverished after the pandemic?
In line with the effects of the pandemic, many of the solutions are also structural and require government support. The Grattan Institute’s Women’s work: The impact of the COVID crisis on Australian women reportincludes many recommendations. Here are just a few:
Make childcare cheaper. This is the most powerful way we can help women back into the workforce (and into study).
Reform the aged care sector, whose workforce is largely women. This creates more jobs for women and improves life for our elders.
In future downturns, provide a stimulus that supports social programs and services.
It’s also important to understand the influence the pandemic is having on different groups of women. Women of colour, women with a disability, First Nations women, women living remotely, trans women and queer women all have different experiences and vulnerabilities. To provide the best possible support for these women, these differences should be considered when building policy solutions.
How we’re supporting women
Alongside government policy reform, each part of society can do their bit to help women recover from the pandemic – economically, socially and emotionally.
At La Trobe, we’re committed to supporting women as they upskill, reskill and strengthen their careers.
Our new range of short courses, Graduate Certificates and Graduate Diplomas make it easier for women to access higher education, providing more options to build their educational journey.
We’ve also made many of our courses available online, thanks to our new online study pathways – StudyFlex. By supporting online learning, we’re aiming to make our courses more accessible and flexible. We’ve also got a wide range of scholarships to provide extra economic support which can make a huge difference while you’re studing.
Some study options
If you’re interested in developing a deeper understanding on the issues surrounding the effect of the pandemic on women, here are some options for further study:
If you’re interested in exploring the impacts of work on health, study a Graduate Certificate in Occupational Health, Safety and Ergonomics or Master of Ergonomics, Safety and Health.
To gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of gender, race, disability and rurality on health and work, study a Graduate Certificate in Public Health or Master of Public Health.
To explore pandemics, including our response and recovery efforts, study a Master of Public Health, Master of Health Administration or Master of International Development.
To understand how we can better support gender diverse and trans people, study a Graduate Certificate in Sex, Health and Society.
Gillespie, Eden. 2021. The Feed.Inequalities amplified for LGBTIQ+ community during the pandemic
Grattan Institute. 2021, Women’s work: The impact of the COVID crisis on Australian women
Hankivsky, Olena. 2020. Pursuit. Using intersectionality to understand who is most at risk of COVID-19
The McKell Institute. 2020, The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Work in Victoria