Australian women are bearing the brunt of the initial economic impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as job cuts start to mount, the latest Financy Women’s Index shows.
The Index moved marginally higher in the March quarter as the pace of improvement slowed to levels not seen since September 2018.
The Index is an economic scorecard on the financial progress of Australian women relative to men.
The Financy Women’s Index (The Index) rose by 0.3 percentage points to a revised 71.3 points in the March quarter up from 71 points in the December period.
The result reflects the weakest start to a calendar year since March 2015 as we start to see the COVID-19 impact hit female employment.
Full-time female employment growth slowed in the March quarter, which is the opposite to a historical trend that has long seen it outpace male employment growth.
The number of women in full-time work grew by just 0.1% to 3.345 million, from 3.341 million in December 2019, and compared to 0.9% growth in male full-time employment, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In addition, COVID-19 job statistics released after March 14 by the ABS and the Australian Tax Office show that women have also been more impacted than men by job losses and pay cuts as the Coronavirus shutdown impacts.
The total number of jobs performed by both genders decline by roughly the same amount. In percentage terms, female jobs decreased by 5.9% versus 5.8% for males. The number of female job cuts also worsened further between March 28 and April 4.
Of the 19 sectors of the economy, job losses were dominated by women across 14 sectors, while there were more male job losses in five industries.
Payments in terms of wages to females fell by 7% versus a fall 6.4% for males.
In annual terms, growth in the Index has almost halved, slowing to a five year low of 1.9% compared with 3% in March 2019.
However, 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 Financy Women’s Index result for the March quarter means that Australian women are unlikely to achieve financial equality with men for at least 32 years.
Nicki Hutley, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics says women are currently faring worse from an economic sense for a number of reasons.
“Women tend to be more highly represented in the most vulnerable sectors, such as retail, education and hospitality, which have been hardest hit by job losses and or reductions in hours and wages.
“If the shutdown persists, more sectors will be affected over time as the economic impact broadens, so we would see more male-dominated sectors, like construction, hit harder and the balance may shift.”