Women and junior workers feel the brunt of COVID-19
Around the country, COVID-19 is continuing to impact the way people live and work. But some groups are feeling the effects more than others.

Research conducted on behalf of SEEK reveals how certain groups stand out when it comes to the sense of security and optimism they feel about their working lives. Here’s a look at the key insights and how they may shape your approach to attracting talent.

But first, a quick look at how the 2020 Federal Budget may shape the job market.

The Federal Budget handed down on October 6 includes a number of measures aimed at strengthening the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19 – from wide-scale income tax cuts to record investments in skills and training.

Ivan Colhoun, Chief Economist at NAB, says it also includes measures to drive demand for and support the creation of more jobs.

“This includes additional infrastructure spending and funding for more apprentices,” he says.

“Tax cuts have been brought forward and there is more support for businesses to create jobs through measures like research and development tax incentives.

“The Government has also been providing support to keep people attached to their employers through JobKeeper.”

There’s been a decline in women’s sense of job security and sense of control, as well as their confidence in finding work.

57% of women felt secure about their current job in September, compared to 68% of men. While 64% of men felt in control of their working lives, only 45% of women felt this way.

Colhoun says this may be due to more women working in the hardest-hit industries.

“I think it probably traces back to the sectors most impacted at the start of the crisis that tend to have relatively more women working within them, like accommodation, hospitality, retail, the arts,” he says.

Jaclyn Donahue, Senior Research and Education Adviser at Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), says a range of data points to the gendered impact of COVID-19.

“A recent ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey notes some of the emotional and mental stresses people have been experiencing and, while everyone has taken on quite a load, it found that women were more likely to report feeling nervous than men.”

Donahue says there are a number of reasons COVID-19 has impacted women in the workforce, including an increase in caring responsibilities that are more likely to be shouldered by women.

“Women also tend to have less earnings and savings and are more likely to work in casual forms of employment,” she says.

Thirty-three per cent of women were looking for work in September, which is 10% more than in August. This may be the result of recent changes to JobSeeker and JobKeeper or the reopening of childcare – and this may present good news for employers looking to increase the gender diversity of their workforce.

Donahue says there are a number of steps employers can take to support workplace gender equality that can help attract and retain talent.

“Well before the pandemic, WGEA had a suite of resources to help employers, such as running gender pay gap analyses,” she says. “There are also resources to help promote more flexible workplace practices – and not just for women who may be balancing work with childcare responsibilities.

“If flexible options are more readily accessed by men and women, it can help to promote more sharing of caring responsibilities and help support women’s workforce participation.”

Australians in junior or entry-level roles are feeling less secure in their jobs than those in more senior roles – 60% versus 69% – and their general work sentiment is declining as the year progresses.

44% of junior or entry-level workers said they were feeling optimistic about their future job prospects in September, which is a decline of 5% from August. Meanwhile, 65% of Australians in senior level roles were feeling optimistic – a lift of 6% from August.

Junior or entry-level workers were also feeling less in control of their working lives (46%) than those in more senior level roles (70%). They’re also more likely to agree that looking for a job is overwhelming in September, and this has risen from the previous month (72% versus 59%).

More junior or entry-level workers also feel that there are not enough jobs out there (62%) compared to just 38% of those in more senior roles. This may change with the introduction of the Government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit, announced in the Federal Budget with the aim of creating more work for younger people.

Matt McGilton, Managing Director of Kaizen Recruitment, says employers can also help more junior or entry-level candidates to adjust their expectations. “To help them with this, employers and recruiters could explain to candidates that one role can be a springboard to the next role in their career.”

There are other ways for employers to help less experienced workers feel more positive about their future, says McGilton.

“If junior workers are feeling particularly disillusioned, it may be necessary to check in with them more often,” he says.

“If they are reasonably new to the workforce, working from home may not be what they had expected for the start of their career. Some people may be struggling with it, but others are loving it. We are seeing the need for organisations and leaders to develop new skills in leading remote teams and staying connected with them.”

These 5 key principles for managing a team remotely can help you to support and motivate your employees, and keep team culture alive.

We’ll keep you informed on the key insights of how Australian workers are thinking and feeling in line with the changing job market.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published October 2020.