Women lost jobs and hours worked at a greater rate than men, according to research by The Australia Institute, yet experts say stimulus has targeted disproportionally at male-dominated industries like construction.

Women are not only losing their jobs at a faster rate than men during the COVID-19 recession, they are being helped less by emergency government stimulus, according to a new analysis.
Key points:

  • Australian women have lost 11.5 per cent of their hours during the coronavirus pandemic, according to analysis by The Australia Institute
  • Finance Minister Mathias Cormann rejects the idea the government stimulus had disproportionally supported male-intensive industries like construction
  • Market economist Barbara Pocock says we’re witnessing a “pink recession”

Research by The Australia Institute found that between March and April, the number of women employed fell 5.3 per cent compared to 3.9 per cent for men.
The number of hours worked by Australian women also fell faster: women lost 11.5 per cent of their hours compared 7.5 per cent for men.
Chief economist at The Australia Institute Dr Richard Denniss told RN Breakfast that the Government’s targeted measures have been disproportionately focused on male-intensive industries like construction, which last week received nearly $700 million in grants to boost home building.
At the same time, the Government has announced an end to free child care and the removal of the JobKeeper wage subsidy for childcare operators from next month.
“Our research suggests that rather than pulling money out of things like child care, the Government should be putting a lot more in,” said Dr Denniss.
Economist Barbara Pocock described the current economic situation as a “pink recession”.(Getty: Geber86)
“Industries like child care create around 8 jobs [for women] for every $1 million the government spends on it and that compares very favourably to the 0.2 jobs that women get if we spend that money on construction.
“We have got to line up our stimulus with the reality of the modern economy.”
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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann rejected claims its measures were not helping women get back into work.
“Before COVID-19 hit, female participation levels had hit record highs under our government,” he said.
“What we are focused on now is maximising the strength of the economic recovery [] for all Australians.”
A ‘pink’ recession
Leading labour market economist Barbara Pocock, an emeritus professor at the University of South Australia business school, said women have been the biggest losers from the pandemic.
“I think we are seeing a ‘pink’ recession,” she said.
“That reflects where women are employed, they are disproportionately employed as casuals because of their caring responsibilities.
“They are disproportionately in sectors where we have lost a lot of employment and lot of hours of work, like hospitality, education and tourism.”
Losing a job as a mother of three
MJ is an Adelaide mother of three who was working as a casual chef at her local cafe until the COVID-19 restrictions forced her employer to close.
MJ had only recently returned to the workforce when she lost her job.(Supplied)
She was unable to access JobKeeper payments because she was a casual and the cafe had been open for less than a year.
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She also didn’t qualify for JobSeeker unemployment benefits because of her partner’s income.
“I had just returned to the workforce and it was quite difficult to lose my financial independence,” she said.
“It was also quite difficult to lose the outside stimulation of work, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with having a job.
MJ was not able to access JobSeeker because of her partner’s income.(Supplied)
“Even if I hadn’t lost my job due to the pandemic because the schools had closed and we kept our children home from school I wouldn’t have been able to work during the day anyway.”
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell was disappointed at the Government’s decision to end free child care and remove the JobKeeper subsidy from the sector given the importance of child care in helping to get women back to work after COVID-19.
“There’s also the 38 per cent of small businesses that are owned and operated by women; these are women with kids in child care and who are surviving on JobKeeper at the moment and who are working really hard to keep their businesses afloat, they will struggle to pay for child care at this stage.”
“We know the way to improve productivity is to increase the participation rate of women in the workforce, this will decrease it.”
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