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The gendered impact of COVID-19

Discrimination Sex Discrimination
Mother with mask holding her baby

The impacts of COVID-19 are not gender-neutral. This pandemic, and our response to it, will test Australia’s progress towards equality in many ways. My team and I are continuing our work to promote gender equality, tackle sex discrimination and build a fairer, more productive society.

COVID-19 is forcing Australians to rethink the nature of paid and unpaid work, requiring us to work more flexibly and creating new caring obligations whilst putting increased pressure on grassroots service providers. In many ways, women are disproportionately on the frontline—the majority of health care workers, social assistance workers and teachers are women, as are the majority of unpaid carers. I spoke to Parents@Work about the future of work in a COVID-19 environment—you can listen to the
podcast
here.

I commend the Australian government’s decision to provide vital support to parents using childcare
and the childcare sector
. These measures will increase the ability of women and men to undertake paid work at a time when many families are feeling increased economic strain and support a sector which is crucial to Australia’s long-term productivity.

UN Women has published a briefing on the emerging evidence on the impact of the pandemic on violence against women and girls, with recommendations for all sectors of society. The emerging data shows an intensification of violence, and particularly domestic violence, against women and girls since the outbreak of COVID-19.

I am concerned that isolation measures may force victims to spend longer periods of time exposed to abusers, and existing protections, community support and access to assistance may weaken during a time of crisis. I am pleased that the Australian government has provided an additional $150 million to boost programs under the National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

I encourage you to access the Australian eSafety Commissioner’s resources for women experiencing domestic and family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to share this information among your networks. They provide helpful information on how to identify and avoid online risks for both victims and domestic violence workers.

I look forward to engaging with you on Twitter or via our website as we work together throughout this pandemic to continue our progress towards gender equality.

Kate Jenkins
Sex Discrimination Commissioner