The WRAP #90: Building back better

This time last month Victoria reported a total 5,743 active cases of Coronavirus infections, one quarter of which was linked to aged care, food manufacturing and public housing estates, all settings in which migrant women and their communities live and work. This month it is pleasing to see the number of infections has subsided, down to a total of 2,620 active cases. The settings remain constant, with the concerning addition of disability care. The affected postcodes continue to be concentrated in areas with significant numbers of migrant communities.

As the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel approaches in Victoria, it seems timely to think deeply about recovery. It also seems pertinent to make sure that the people most impacted by COVID-19 are integrally involved in the decision making about what happens next. These same groups – migrant women and their communities, people with disabilities, older people – must be integral to the recovery process.

In order to ‘build back better’, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its social, economic and health impacts must be equitable and include all members of the community. Our community is rightly re-evaluating the value of care-based work, which should lead to adequate compensation of ‘essential’ workers and industries for the central role they play in keeping us all healthy and well. It should also lead to an acknowledgement of the valuable contribution that children, older people and people with disabilities make to the community, whether or not that contribution s economically quantifiable.

We can learn so much from Hawai’i’s Feminist Economic Recovery Plan which takes an intersectional approach to economic recovery, placing women at the centre, valuing essential caring work and considering social wellbeing as paramount.

For migrant women, recovery will mean being enabled to participate actively in meaningful, stable, and appropriately valued and remunerated jobs. We must ensure that the industries and jobs in which migrant women are concentrated – aged care, manufacturing, hospitality, cleaning, retail – are included in recovery and support programs, and that migrant women are specifically targeted as participants in those programs. Now is the time to pull down barriers to equitable work and place a significant investment into addressing and preventing gender and race discrimination in employment.

COVID-19 has laid bare the health, social and economic inequities between us, but it has also made us see how connected we all are. Recovery must build on those connections, strengthen them and deepen them, constructing the future on a solid foundation.

The WRAP is a monthly newsletter about migrant women’s issues. Subscribe to our mailing list here.