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The latest unemployment figures suggest the Covid-recession is almost over, but a focus on the industry hit hardest by the pandemic, the tourism sector, shows that there is still a long way to go.
The February unemployment figure of 5.8% was a very nice surprise. The drop from 6.3% was the third biggest one month fall on record.
And while there is still a fair bit of messiness going on with the data because the snap shutdown in Victoria last month was mostly missed by this survey (which covers the first two weeks of each month), it’s still a great result.
Using the unemployment recession measure devised by American economist Claudia Sahm, which looks at the change in the unemployment rate within a 12 month period, all states are still on the edge of recession, but very much trending in the right direction:
So all good?
Alas, not for all workers, and especially not for those in the tourism sector. The reason of course is that because of the shutdowns and border restrictions, people have been unable to travel – and for international tourists this is likely to remain the case for many months yet.
Measuring the tourism sector is quite challenging because it traverses a number of industries from the obvious ones of accommodation and food services, to areas like travel, retail and even education.
The bureau of statistics overcomes this by applying a “tourism value added industry ratios to employment estimates for each industry”. It does this by assuming that to be a tourism job it must be one that provides goods and services to both visitors and non-visitors.
And the results reveal just how much carnage there has been over the past year. It also reveals how the impact has been much more directed at women and those working full-time.
More women work in the tourism sector than do men. Prior to the pandemic, women made up around 55% of all jobs and the same amount of full-time positions in the sector:
By the end of last year that had fallen to 53% and women now occupy just 51% of all full-time jobs.
It’s not surprising when you look at the parts of the tourism sector that were hardest hit:
The ABS estimates that 23,700 jobs in cafes, restaurants and other food services were lost in 2020 and 21,100 in accommodation.
Women make up the majority of workers in both sectors. Prior to the pandemic, women accounted for 60% of jobs in accommodation and 55% of the 832,000 jobs in food and beverage service.
And when we break down the jobs by full-time and part-time we see just how drastic has been the hit to full-time workers:
And the loss of full-time work has been felt most acutely by women.
In the first half of 2020, when the pandemic took the biggest toll on jobs, some 36,900 full-time jobs held by women were lost. In the same period, 54,200 part-time jobs held by women were cut.
But in the second half of last year, 35,800 part-time jobs returned – not enough to make up the total loss, but at least something to suggest things were recovering. And yet far from recovering full-time jobs, another 2,000 full-time jobs held by women were lost:
Men were also losing their full-time jobs through the second half of 2020, but the initial loss was not as great as it had been for women.
Indeed when we look at the annual loss of jobs, while for part-time workers of both genders things are getting better, the loss of full-time jobs for women in the tourism sector is getting worse:
The national and state unemployment rates show that as restrictions ease and worries about outbreaks subside, the jobs do come back.
The worry, however, remains whether the same jobs at the same hours will come back. In the tourism sector, which still awaits the re-opening of international borders, the path back to pre-pandemic levels remains to be traversed.
For full-time workers in the tourism sector though, and especially for women, the recovery has not even begun.
Source: The Guardian
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