Gender equity imbalance
Where previous recessions have hit male-dominated industries such as building and manufacturing, the COVID-19 recession is disproportionately impacting women according to economist Dr Leonora Risse.
Risse is a lecturer in economics at RMIT and a Research Fellow with the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University.
She says that the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows women are losing their jobs in higher numbers than men, revealing government policy is out of step propping up jobs in male-dominated industries such as construction and trades.
“It’s essential to apply a gender lens when formulating any local or national economic response to the COVID-19 crisis,” she says.
“We need the government to give deeper consideration to the value of investing in social infrastructure such as mental health, crisis support, childcare, aged care, community services and digital connectivity.”
“If they want to prop up jobs in building and trades, a more productive stimulus policy would be to support hard-hit businesses in hospitality and retail to innovate and adapt their premises to become COVID-safe, as this would also strengthen job security for women.”
“This is not just a gender equity issue. It's what Australia needs for the best possible chance of a full economic recovery.”
Small business opportunities
Professor of Family Business Entrepreneurship Professor Kosmas Smyrnios says there are also huge challenges facing micro-enterprises.
“COVID-19 has delivered many risks to business with a substantial number of small to medium businesses already failing or on life support.”
But he says there are opportunities waiting to be exploited at a community level.
"Providing small to medium-sized enterprises with access to Federal Government-guaranteed loans worth up to $1 million under a plan to drive investment should help deliver support to not only employers, but also individuals and families,” he says.
He argues now is the time for the Federal Government to drive economic growth and stimulate employment.
At a local level, providing micro loans and associated support in the form of training programs for the creation of new ventures is one of the best ways to stimulate innovation and manage unemployment.
"Although not everyone is a nascent entrepreneur, incentive schemes that encourage people to be independent financially can lead to many community and personal benefits, helping to reduce the likelihood of medium-to-long term dependency on government handouts,” he says.
He says the Federal Government should be urged to establishment a New Venture Creation scheme to foster the go-getter Australian spirit.
Broader industry strategy needed
The Federal Government’s budget update was also an opportunity to bring various loose policy threads together, according to economist and former Director of RMIT’s Future Social Service Institute, Emeritus Professor David Hayward.
He says while it was necessary to extend Job Seeker and Job Keeper, higher levels of accountability and long-term planning are also crucial.
“Income payments should be linked to a more carefully crafted invitation to undertake education and training,” he says.
“Tertiary education providers should be thinking about how they might better tailor their services to just-in-time skills.”
“All this needs to be tied to a broader industry strategy that targets a better paid and educated care workforce in rapidly growing areas like aged care, disability, childcare, family violence, social housing, and mental health: the jobs of tomorrow, not yesterday.”
Story: Diana Robertson