COVID-19: Women 'quite vulnerable' to job losses - Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner says the Government needs to do more to ensure women aren't left behind after employment figures showed they were disproportionately affected.

Ninety percent of New Zealanders who have so far lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are women.

The latest jobs report from Stats NZ shows 10,000 women make up the 11,000 people who are now unemployed.

The underutilisation rate - indicating when employees are working fewer hours than they'd like to - is also higher for women.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo told Morning Report the numbers reflect the fact that women tend to be more represented in retail and hospitality, but also part time work.

"Women are quite vulnerable to the crisis so I think our response has to be purposeful - we can't just rely on job growth.

"You can have job growth but if you don't address the inequity underneath it, then you still leave women and young people behind."

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo.
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo. Photo credit: Supplied / RNZ

Sumeo said it would be useful if there was moredata on jobs. For instance, she said the provincial growth fund could note how many jobs were created for women and what kind of pay they offered.

She hoped there would be meaningful collaboration with the Government to target training and apprenticeships to women, and that those programmes actually led to jobs rather than propping up tertiary education providers.

"We want to see that hope of a job fulfilled at the end and I haven't yet seen anything to give me confidence that there's enough monitoring there to tie the two together.

"It's public money and women are part of the public - they need to gain from this investment as well."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the unemployment figures were still a good result given economists predicted it would be 5 or 6 percent.

"We've been very upfront with New Zealanders that the September quarter is likely to be worse than where we are now, but we have a good starting point for New Zealand."

He said the Government was aware of the issue that women were more affected in job losses.

"We're really conscious of that. It's one of the reasons why the range of free apprenticeships and workplace training are available for everybody," Robertson said.

"We're also aware that within that you've got sectors like retail and hospitality who have come back since that time and people have been reemployed or taken on.

"We're acutely aware that this is a pandemic with significant impacts on female employment and we'll continue to find ways of people retraining and going into businesses."