A gender lens on the workforce impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

Leonora Risse, Angela Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper documents the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Australian
workforce, analysed through a gender lens. A suite of labour market indicators,
disaggregated by gender, is examined to identify the ways in which men and women
were affected differently by the economic impacts of the pandemic as well as by
government policy. Using ABS Labour Force Survey data, the paper develops a
cumulative measure of workforce losses over the course of the pandemic, calculated
comparatively for men and women, and assessed relative to the workforce’s prepandemic composition. This measure finds that women experienced the bulk of the
cumulative losses in employment throughout the first twelve months of the pandemic
from March 2020 to February 2021 – equivalent to a 55 per cent share of total
months of lost employment – despite comprising only 47 per cent of total employment
prior to the pandemic. Younger women, especially, experienced a disproportionately
higher share of employment losses. The Victorian workforce, where lockdowns were
implemented for a longer period than in other states and territories, is highlighted as
a case study of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women’s employment.
Applying a gender lens to this analysis can inform the application of gender
responsive budgeting in the government’s future policy-making processes. We also
highlight the need to further disaggregate data through an intersectional lens to more
fully understand the impacts of the pandemic on particular demographic cohorts of
the workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-144
Number of pages34
JournalAustralian Journal of Labour Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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