With news that Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.5 per cent in April, it’d be easy to think that there was more work being done by Australians in the economy.
But according to analysis by The Australia Institute, the fall in the unemployment rate is not because employment increased – it’s because a lot of people decided to leave the labour market altogether. The vast majority of these people were women.
In April, there was a “very large fall” in the female workforce participation rate, with 54000 women leaving the labour force. This is a 0.5 per cent drop in the female participation rate. In comparison, only 10,000 men left the labour force, accounting for a 0.1 per cent drop in the male participation rate.
Matt Grudnoff, a senior economist at the Australia Institute, said many women are deciding to give up looking for work and the government’s focus on stimulus for male dominated industries isn’t helping.
“Falls in participation rate often occur during economic crises as people look at the state of the labour market and become discouraged and give up looking for work,” he said.
“The government’s focus on stimulus has been biased towards male dominated industries such as construction. The end of JobKeeper and the neglect of stimulus in female dominated areas may well be having a significant effect on women’s confidence in finding a job.”
According to Grudnoff, excluding the depths of the pandemic recession in April and May last year, the female participation rate has only fallen by more than 0.5 per cent once before, way back in July 1988.
While the unemployment rate did fall by 0.2 per cent, employment itself didn’t increase. In fact, employment went backwards in the month of April, falling by over 30,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the total hours of work undertaken by Australians fell by 13 million.
“This highlights that despite the falling unemployment rate the total amount of work being done in the economy is going down,” Grudnoff said.