Australia

Lack of flexible work is keeping Australian women at home

Australian women made redundant by COVID-19 are finding it tough to return to work due to a lack of flexibility from employers as they struggle to shoulder the burden of caring for family amid the pandemic.

Women have been the hardest hit in the coronavirus-driven recession with employment in March and April falling 5.3 per cent, compared to 3.9 per cent for men.

Industries disproportionately staffed by women also suffered the most, with fewer job opportunities in healthcare, retail, education, hospitality and corporate services.

According to the latest data from jobs platform LinkedIn, Australia’s hiring activity is still down six per cent compared year-on-year to August 2019.

“Fewer women are applying for roles,” said Adam Gregory, LinkedIn’s senior director for Australia and NZ.

The pandemic had created a “perfect storm” where the industries dominated by women have been the hardest hit, with fewer job opportunities, while at the same time women have increasingly borne the burden of homeschooling and carers.

“Women will have to make that impossible choice between caring for children or family and going back to work,” Mr Gregory told AAP on Wednesday.

“The longer this goes on the harder women will have to work to get back into the workforce.”

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It comes as the Australia Institute found men on high incomes would be the main beneficiaries should the federal government bring forward its planned tax cuts.

For every dollar women would receive, men would get $2.28, the think tank’s modelling showed.

LinkedIn’s economists expect hiring recovery to remain flat or even gradually decline in the coming weeks.

The virus has created a ceiling on how much the economy can return to normal as global demand slows, the platform warns.

Mr Gregory said employers needed to create long-term change and offer flexible working options for women to help restore gender parity to levels pre-COVID-19.

LinkedIn’s workplace confidence index also found the pandemic had caused more anxiety among small-business owners and contractors who were ineligible for federal wage subsidies.

Mr Gregory says there has been a spike in interest in short-term assignments from the platform’s consumers as state’s move to relax restrictions.

“Hopefully, in the coming weeks the economy will start to pick up and that might drive more activity,” he said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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