The federal government’s stimulus packages are “disproportionately” weighted to creating new jobs in male-dominated industries, a new report has said.
According to analysis by think-tank the Australia Institute, women have seen faster job losses than men in the economic fallout of the pandemic: employment numbers for women fell by 5.3 per cent compared to 3.9 per cent for men between March and April, and women have lost 11.5 per cent of work hours versus 7.5 per cent for men.
“Despite the clear evidence that women are disproportionately losing their jobs and incomes, the Morrison Government is developing stimulus policies that disproportionately favour male dominated industries,” said Australia Institute chief economist Richard Denniss.
“It is clear that women are facing the brunt of the recession so far.”
As the health risks of Covid-19 fade, the government has been focused on job creation in order to commandeer Australia out of the economic downturn.
The government’s fourth stimulus package, the $688 million HomeBuilder scheme, has been touted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as driving a “tradie-led recovery” aimed at supporting 140,000 construction jobs and a further million workers in the broader residential building sector, such as architects, materials suppliers and manufacturers, and engineers.
The NSW government has also been fast-tracking several construction projects in the pipeline that would have otherwise been slated for months or years down the track in order to bring forward projects that would create jobs.
Additionally, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced the date that free childcare would be switched off, a move that economists have slammed as disproportionately affecting women.
However, within Morrison’s stimulus measures exist a gender imbalance in the number of jobs it will generate for men versus jobs it will generate for women, according to Denniss’ report.
“While infrastructure and housing construction have a role to play in any well designed stimulus package, if its role is central to the design of a stimulus package then it is important to understand that, per million dollars spent, such a stimulus package will not create many jobs in general and will create barely any jobs for women,” the report said.
“Alternatively, stimulus spending focussed on health, education and tourism or entertainment will create far more jobs, for both men and women, than spending a similar amount on construction.”
Construction is a traditionally male-dominated industry: of the 1.18 million people working in the construction industry, only 147,000 are women, Australia Institute analysis of ABS figures reveal.
The same amount of money – $1 million – invested in education would create 10.6 jobs for women, while it would only create 0.2 jobs for women if spent on the construction industry.
And these figures don’t even account for the secondary jobs that are created when investment in one industry generates more jobs on the fringe of that industry.
According to Denniss, there is “absolutely no doubt” that Morrison’s stimulus measures create more jobs for men than women.
“There is absolutely no doubt that stimulus spending focussed on infrastructure and construction will do little to create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of women who have lost their jobs in retail, hospitality, entertainment and other service sector industries as a result of Covid-19.”
Denniss also took aim at Morrison for being out of touch with regular Australians.
“The Prime Minister seems to like wearing a hard-hat when he talks about job creation, but like the Prime Minister himself, the vast majority of Australians don’t wear hard-hats to work each day,” he said.
“Australian policymakers need to focus our stimulus spending on the industries that create a lot of jobs, not the industries that look best in the background of a press conference.”