Family at home during coronavirus isolation

Females who stopped working during COVID-19 are more likely to have taken on unpaid domestic duties and to have stopped looking for paid work than recently unemployed males, who are far more likely to be actively seeking work and only slightly more involved in home-schooling, new data from ANU has found.

The study forms part of the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods COVID-19 monitoring program, which is based on information collected from 3,249 respondents across Australia.

The study is funded by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Co-author, Professor Nick Biddle, said females who stopped working during COVID-19 were almost three times as likely to have taken on caring and housework roles.

“Males, on the other hand, appear to be only slightly more likely to have moved into educational or home-schooling roles, and are far more likely to be still actively seeking work,” he said.

The results show a significant drop in the number of people who reported having paid work between February and May from 62% to just over 57%.

A follow-up survey in late June/early July showed some improvements in employment, with an increase in average hours worked across the sample of a little over one hour per week.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 2GB Radio on Monday 26 June there was “anecdotal evidence” of employers not being able to fill vacant roles, potentially because of the increase in JobSeeker payments.

“What we have to be worried about now is that we can’t allow the JobSeeker payment to become an impediment to people going out and doing work, getting extra shifts,” he said.

The study also showed the impact of uncertain work on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians.

“These changes to the labour market have been more rapid and far reaching than almost any time in Australia’s history, so they’re also having an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing,” Professor Biddle said.  

“We know those who’ve lost their jobs reported a much lower level of life satisfaction.

“We found life satisfaction declined substantially between January and April, and then recovered slightly between April and May.”

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