The COVID-19 pandemic has sent women backwards and pushed out the timeframe for gender equity by four years, according to new research.
A study by the Financy Women’s Index found the timeframe to gender equity in Australia has risen from 34 years to 36 years.
The study claims that women are facing an increased risk of homelessness as the labour market has deteriorated, pressures from their caring burdens have risen, household poverty levels have grown, and domestic abuse has increased.
The gender gap in unpaid work has also grown due to the pandemic, with women in relationships now doing 60 per cent more than men.
Women’s Legal Service WA client service officer Sophie Kennedy said the service saw an increase in women seeking help due to the pandemic.
“The biggest issue women are facing now is that most women are currently financially dependent on their partner… the constant threat of losing their home, as well as the share care of their children, is causing tremendous stress on them.
“They feel powerless and sometimes obliged to agree with what their partner wants,” she said.
Young Women’s Council Australia’s senior manager Amanda Chan said young women were likely to experience the greatest impacts from the COVID-19 crisis.
“Young women will be impacted through risks to employment prospects and their long-term financial stability.
“This stems from the fact that young women are more likely to work in a job that is significantly impacted by COVID-19,” she said.
A Monash University study also found domestic violence against women had spiked since the pandemic began.
The McGowan government enforced new laws in May to protect victims of family and domestic violence.
This involves a plan to use some $3 million in targeted Commonwealth funding to support women experiencing violence to help them remain safe.
Ms Kennedy said: “As the $3 million is shared with all community legal centres, as well as refuges, it is not enough.”
Although WLSWA is trying to assist people experiencing gender inequality, she said: “There are still plenty of areas of law, in which we don’t practice, which leaves a huge gap for women in this current situation.”
But chair of Our Watch, the nation’s leader in primary prevention of violence against women, Natasha Stott Despoja told the National Press Club that the pandemic was an opportunity to stop gender inequality and prevent women from being killed by their partners.
“It has highlighted and exacerbated inequalities in the home and in the workforce as women tend to make up the majority of those who are home schooling.
“They are carers, they are healthcare workers and home teachers,” she said.
Natasha Stott Despoja said this was an opportunity to direct government toward these gender issues.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.