A gender lens on the workforce impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

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Leonora Risse https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2896-101X
Angela Jackson


women's labour force participation, COVID-19, gender equality, public policy, gender responsive budgeting


This paper documents the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian workforce, analysed through a gender lens. A suite of labour market indicators, disaggregated by gender, is examined to identify the ways in which men and women were affected differently by the economic impacts of the pandemic as well as by government policy. Using ABS Labour Force Survey data, the paper develops a cumulative measure of workforce losses over the course of the pandemic, calculated comparatively for men and women, and assessed relative to the workforce’s prepandemic composition. This measure finds that women experienced the bulk of the cumulative losses in employment throughout the first twelve months of the pandemic from March 2020 to February 2021 – equivalent to a 55 per cent share of total months of lost employment – despite comprising only 47 per cent of total employment prior to the pandemic. Younger women, especially, experienced a disproportionately higher share of employment losses. The Victorian workforce, where lockdowns were implemented for a longer period than in other states and territories, is highlighted as a case study of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s employment. Applying a gender lens to this analysis can inform the application of gender responsive budgeting in the government’s future policy-making processes. We also highlight the need to further disaggregate data through an intersectional lens to more fully understand the impacts of the pandemic on particular demographic cohorts of the workforce.

JEL Codes: H53, J16, J21

Abstract 70 | PDF Downloads 404

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