Women, work and industrial relations in Australia in 2020

02 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic drove significant changes affecting women, work and industrial relations in Australia in 2020. This annual review explores the economic and social impact of the pandemic on women workers, and examines the gendered impact of key policy responses, including: the introduction of an historic temporary wage subsidy programme; the early release of superannuation funds; multiple economic stimulus measures, targeted mostly at male-dominated industries; and the provision of paid pandemic leave. This review also analyses major developments in early childhood care and education and aged care, and the longer-term implications of the massive natural experiment in working from home that occurred in 2020. Developments in paid parental leave and sexual harassment are also briefly discussed. We find that, although women workers were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, policy responses to date have largely failed to acknowledge or repair the gendered impacts of the crisis.