In New Zealand, the health impacts of the virus have been minimal and relatively even by gender, reflecting how fortunate we have been to escape the sheer loss of life experienced in other countries.
Economic impacts have been much less severe than elsewhere, too.
But we have not been immune, with some firms facing challenging times and job losses evident. Losing one’s job can be immensely challenging – personally and financially. And so far, impacts on employment and incomes have been most stark amongst women.
Relative to March 2020, employment has increased in aggregate for men (+1,000), but has fallen for women, with 10,000 fewer women in employment. And it’s not just the loss of a few hours here or there. Job losses have been seen amongst those who have been working both full time and part time.
There doesn’t appear to be a significant number of women leaving the workforce of their own volition, either. In fact, more women are now reporting that they are willing, ready and able to work.
Fortunately, New Zealand has not experienced the prolonged lockdowns overseas that have forced women to leave the workforce in large numbers to take on greater carer responsibility.
Unemployment has increased for both men and women, with more people ready, willing and able to work but not employed.
Since March, there are 14,000 more women and 6,000 more men who are unemployed, meaning 70% of the increase in unemployment is amongst women. This has seen the female unemployment rate rise from 4.4% to 5.4%, while the male unemployment rate has risen from 4.1% to 4.5%.
Taking into account those additional people who are employed and would like to work more hours but can’t, the underutilisation rate is sitting at 14.3% for women and 9.7% for men.
Figure 1. Underutilisation rate by sex