Published: October 14, 2020

Australian women, especially those living in the state of Victoria, are experiencing higher economic vulnerability and poorer health, are carrying larger housework and childcare loads, and are vulnerable to long-term disadvantage as a result of COVID-19.

These are key findings from a new report that examines how Australian women have been coping in the pandemic, particularly in the worst-affected state of Victoria. The report is co-authored by Life Course Centre Associate Investigator Associate Professor Leah Ruppanner of the University of Melbourne in conjunction with Associate Professor Andrea Carson of La Trobe University and Dr Shaun Ratcliff of the University of Sydney. It is based on two surveys conducted during COVID-19 restrictions in Australia: the first lockdown (May 2020); and the stage four lockdown in Victoria (September 2020). As Victoria was the only Australian state to have a second lockdown and stage four restrictions, the second survey oversampled Victorians to meaningfully compare their experiences to the rest of Australia.

The results point to a stark reality – Victorian women have been particularly disadvantaged in their work, family and health experiences during COVID-19:

  • Australian women experienced higher economic vulnerability in May which has compounded for Victorian women in September
  • Australian women are worried their jobs will disappear, they won’t have the right skills for future work or enough money for superannuation
  • Women continue to carry larger housework and childcare loads with the greatest disadvantage amongst Victorian women.

“When the entire country was in lockdown in May, women picked up a larger share of the housework and childcare than men. As other states reopened, women’s share of this work largely returned to baseline,” the report states. But for Victorian women, the additional housework share has remained high, and time educating and caring for children has also increased. “It is perhaps no wonder that Victorian women are reporting increasingly worse health than the rest of the nation. These patterns mirror those for women around the country who are feeling anxious, never calm and sleepless. But Victorian women are particularly vulnerable to these experiences,” the report concludes.

While results from the rest of the nation show a relative bounce-back to pre-pandemic levels, Victorian women’s patterns are uniquely different and highlight exacerbated gender inequalities, and the need for strong and effective government and industry responses.

Read the full report: ‘The worsening of Australian women’s experiences under COVID-19: A Crisis for Victoria’s Future’.

This research appeared in The Age on 11 October 2020: ‘Triple whammy: ‘Budget overlooked women when they needed it most’ and on ABC 730 on 15 October 2020: ‘It appears women have been hit hardest by the COVID shutdown’.