Women most severely affected by job losses during the pandemic

ABS data confirms women most severely affected by job losses

The long-term impact for women in the workforce is worrying.

In the four weeks to April 14, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages data showed the number of staff on payroll fell by 7.5 per cent and that women suffered more severe rates of job loss; 8.1 per cent, compared to a drop of 6.2 percent for men. 

In the same month, total paid wages decreased by 8.2 percent, with the accommodation and food services industry shouldering the steepest drop – a total wage decrease of 30.3 percent.

Each fortnight, the ABS releases estimates providing up-to-date information on the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on businesses and people across Australia. The information includes statistics on the changes in paid employee jobs, total wages paid, and in average weekly wages per job.

The figures indicate the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on women, particularly younger women who constitute a large portion of the hospitality and retail sector, who are subject to working casual hours.

“More women losing their jobs rather than an income cut worries me in terms of longer-term consequences of job losses,” Jo Masters told the ABC’s business reporter David Taylor. Masters is the chief economist of EY and a member of the Advisory Board to the Financy Women’s Index, which aims to measure the economic progress of Australia’s Women.

The latest Financy Index last week reported a slow in full-time female employment growth in the March quarter. It is the opposite to a historical trend that has long seen it outpace male employment growth.

“With the COVID-19 impact driving expectations that female employment will worsen and exacerbate gender gaps in pay, superannuation and in unpaid work, the pace of women’s financial progress could slow further in the forthcoming quarters and lengthen the timeframe for financial equality in Australia,” the report notes.

Overseas in the US, similar figures are being reported by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The Washington DC-based organisation revealed the largest job losses were experienced in hospitality, where women’s payroll employment fell by 261,000 compared to 181,000 for men. 

In the US, almost 40 percent of businesses in the food services, retail and accommodation sector are female-owned.

The Pew Research Centre has also published reports that indicate greater exposure to vulnerabilities faced by black and Hispanic workers, who often make up large portions of manufacturing and labour; industries where employees lack stable financial reserves and face greater volatility in situations like the current crisis.

The ABS has no reported data on how the pandemic is affecting people of different races. 

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