26 September 2023

Women bear burden of pandemic pain

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Dr Miriam Yates and Dr Terry Fitzsimmons

The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Business School research has revealed the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia had a greater financial and psychological impact on women than men.

A study shows women experienced more significant impacts on their overall employment, hours of work, domestic labour and mental health and wellbeing.

Leader of the research Terry Fitzsimmons said one reason was the over-representation of women in industries most affected by lockdowns.

“Women are also more likely to be casual, part-time or contract workers which were among the first to lose their jobs as businesses struggled in response to lockdown,” Dr Fitzsimmons said.

“Additionally, the study found women were less likely to be considered ‘essential workers’, so bore a greater share of caring responsibilities including home schooling when schools and child care centres closed.”

He said women either reduced their work hours or stopped working altogether and took on more domestic labour than their male counterparts while at home with their children.

The study, co-authored by Miriam Yates and Victor Callan, involved a national survey of 1,931 men and 1,691 women employed across various industries, including construction, mining, education, health care and the arts, as well as a series of focus groups.

It found female respondents opted out of professional development opportunities throughout the pandemic.

“The effects of these job losses, reduced income and domestic labour burdens meant women suffered greatly from fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression,” Dr Fitzsimmons said.

“Some female respondents also reported having suicidal thoughts.”

As well as gender, Dr Yates said the study found 19 other variables that could affect an individual’s experience of the pandemic.

“They include a person’s age, whether they’re married, have children, if they’re classed as an ‘essential’ or ’front-line’ worker, their employment type and whether they’re eligible for Job Keeper,” Dr Yates said.

The study provided 13 recommendations to address the continuing impact that the pandemic has had upon women and men.

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