The Worsening of Australian Women’s Experiences under COVID-19: A Crisis for Victoria’s Future

This research project seeks to understand how Australians are coping under the COVID-19 pandemic which has placed unparalleled challenges on individuals, families, employers and governments.

The Worsening of Australian Women’s Experiences under COVID-19: A Crisis for Victoria’s Future


Overview

COVID-19 has placed unparalleled challenges on individuals, families, employers and governments. As global cases have climbed, governments have responded by closing economies and restricting the movement of individuals to stop the spread of the deadly pathogen. The implications of these closures are uniquely gendered at both home and work.

Australia is no exception. Australian women’s larger care burdens – to children, spouses, and relatives – have resulted in increasing demands for their labour under lockdown, yet much of this work is unrecognised and unpaid. In terms of paid employment, a divergent pattern emerges. Women are underemployed in some sectors that are hardest hit by the lockdowns such as hospitality and retail, but demand for women’s labor on the frontline-response sectors such as nursing and aged care have increased. Many of the service industries – food service, tourism and accommodation – may suffer long term structural declines due to the economic shocks of the virus, even after economies re-open.

This has led to the impeding economic crisis coined as a “she-cession” because women are acutely disadvantaged. Importantly, women are responding to changing employment on top of unstable childcare arrangements as schools and daycares close, and remote learning moves online.

Objectives

To better understand how Australians are coping under the pandemic, we conducted two surveys during heightened periods of social movement restrictions. The first was under the first lockdown (May 2020) to understand their work, family and health experiences during these unprecedented times. The second was during the height of the Stage four lockdowns in Victoria (September 2020). Our survey design allowed us to follow many Australians over these two time periods to document changes in their work, family and health experiences.

Outcomes / activities

Australian women experienced higher economic vulnerability in May 2020 which has compounded for Victorian women in September 2020. Women continue to carry a larger housework and childcare load with the greatest disadvantage amongst Victorian women. Women’s health has been severely impacted by the pandemic with Victorian women particularly vulnerable to poor health, anxiety and restless sleep.

Publications

Carson, Andrea; Ruppanner, Leah and Ratcliff, Shaun. Worsening of Australian Women’s Experiences under COVID-19: A Crisis for Victoria’s Future. Report. September 2020.

Download the Worsening Gender Equality Report