A changing world of work holds old challenges and new opportunities for women
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting us all, but women have particular trends to consider.
Women already face a number of financial challenges, including 28% less super at retirement1;. COVID-19 and the effect of policy responses may widen existing gender financial inequities. With women more likely to work part-time or casual, and to take time out of the workforce, the early-release super options may reduce women’s retirement savings further still.
According to the World Health Organisation2;, 70% of workers in the health and social sectors are women. Key occupations on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 such as cleaners, teachers, child-care and aged care workers all feature a high proportion of women.
Other affected areas with high female employment and lower pay include hospitality and retail sales, where the short-term job outlook is uncertain.
Help is available
One of the most pressing issues is financial hardship. This affects many low and underpaid women, who do the majority of caring, for both children and older members of the family. If you’re feeling the pressure, AMP’s financial hardship pages offers practical advice and explains where to get help.
The Federal Government has also announced a raft of support packages, payments and subsidies. These include the JobKeeper payment to subsidise wages for eligible business and JobSeeker payment changes to help facilitate access for unemployment benefits for employees, casual staff, sole traders, families and more.
A changing world of work
Adapting to a changing work environment may not be easy, nor is it the same for everyone.
However, history teaches us that change brings opportunity. Major economic upheavals last century due to world wars altered previous patterns of behaviour and opportunities for women in the workforce.
Although it’s impossible to predict the future, we can already see some changes in the world of work. For instance, the move towards a cashless society already underway has accelerated in this time of social distancing.
There’s been an increase in demand 3 for technology-driven areas including digital specialists and customer support and in the retail supply chain, such as delivery drivers.
Opportunities in work and education
As recovery kicks in, we may see a higher value placed on the care sector. Although much of this is presently low-paid (and based on the statistics carried out by women4), cleaners and nurses are in demand, as are logistics and communications professionals as government and businesses explain the changes to the way they work.
The experience of home schooling our children has also thrown up a new respect for teachers, where women form the majority of the workforce.
With small businesses owned or run by women moving5 to home delivery and promoting their businesses online, we may see an increase in demand for new skills to adapt to a changing economy.
Government assistance is available for people looking to improve their skills via higher education.
If you’re not sure which direction is right for you, check out some of the new free courses coming online. Remember that familiar providers from TAFE to Open University also provide a host of short and longer education for all levels of education and interests.
1,4. Gender equity in the health workforce, World Health Organisation, March 2019.
2. Financy Women’s Index, September 2019
3. ABC, Coronavirus data show job advertisements in freefall, April 2020.
5. SBS, Why are teachers mostly female?, January 2019.
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