COVID-19 has continued to impact the Victorian community throughout 2021, with those hardest hit Victorians from migrant and refugee communities and those living in the most disadvantaged areas of the state where there have been both high COVID-19 infection rates and later access to vaccination.
The economic impact of Victoria’s six lockdowns includes significant loss of employment, wages and job security, particularly for women. Since mid-July Victorian women have lost 7.4% of their payroll jobs, 30% more than the losses sustained by Victorian men. 1 The gendered disadvantage that existed before the pandemic has been further entrenched. Migrant and refugee women have borne the brunt of persisting and compounding race and gender inequity.
The 21/22 Victorian budget provided a much-needed boost toward an equitable health, social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for all Victorians. Key initiatives in the 20/21 budget provided support to industries and jobs in which women are concentrated, increased expenditure in public health in response to the pandemic, including to multicultural communities, provision for mental health reform, and an important increased investment of $2.4m into women’s health services.
However, achieving gender equity, health and wellbeing for all women, including migrant women, is a long-term prospect which requires sufficient and sustained investment. Investment must keep up with increases in the growth, diversity and complexity of Victoria’s population.
Gendered inequality, and its intersections with other forms of inequality, in workplaces, the health system, education, socially, and in the family, remains a key barrier to the equitable social and economic participation of migrant and refugee women in Victoria, and to their optimum health and wellbeing.