Victorian government announces state inquiry into economic equality for women

Two women sitting at a table with a computer, discussing how Australian women have been economically disadvantaged by COVID-19.

Unequal pay and workplace barriers for women are about to go under the microscope in a new state government inquiry into employment inequality for women in Victoria.

The aim is to examine systemic disadvantages women face and how these issues have been highlighted or exacerbated by the pandemic. The panel plans to deliver findings and recommendations to the state treasurer and the minister for women in January 2022 for consideration in the new financial year budget.

This comes after a number of female-focused measures were announced in the 2021/2022 Federal Budget in May, including a $354 million funding boost for women's health programs and changes to the childcare subsidy.

But with the ongoing effects of the pandemic at play, the gender divide in employment opportunities is still starkly clear. A recent Grattan Institute report found women have borne the brunt of the economic impact of COVID-19, and this disadvantage will compound over their working life.

This government-backed investigation found women lost more jobs or saw work hours reduced due to COVID – close to 8% at the peak of the crisis, compared to 4% for men – while shouldering more unpaid household work like childcare. 

It also found women were less likely to receive government support through JobKeeper, as a greater proportion of affected employees in the casual and part-time workforce and other excluded sectors like higher education were women.

With things like superannuation and career development in mind for working parents, the report estimates that being out of work for just six months can add another $100,000 to the average $2 million gap in lifetime earnings between men and women with children in Australia.

With this recent data at hand, the new Victorian inquiry is focused on practical solutions for addressing these kinds of problems. 

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