COVID-19: Government needs better way to help unemployed women - economists

Economists predict women will be the hardest hit by COVID-19 related unemployment for years to come.

Ninety percent of those who lost jobs in the June quarter were women and it's sparking calls for the Government to find a better way to tackle female unemployment.

Laura Douglas left her corporate career to start Real Country - offering farm experiences to tourists.

Business was booming but then COVID-19 hit, the borders closed and her tourism operation went under.

"There were three or four days where I was inconsolable," she says.

Douglas went on the wage subsidy and found a couple of jobs - but living rurally narrowed her options.

"Can't find a job stacking supermarket shelves because there are no supermarkets around here," she says.

She's now using the farm for events - but times are tough and she can't afford to keep some of her much-loved animals.

"It is really sad that I have to say goodbye to some of these animals."

She isn't alone - in the June quarter, when New Zealand was in lockdown, 11,000 Kiwis lost their jobs.

Ten-thousand were women. That number's predicted to climb.

"Additional job losses over the next year to two years are like to be dominated by females," says Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen.

That's because women make up the bulk of industries most affected by COVID-19 - hospitality, retail and accommodation.

"Young females are particularly and disproportionately hit," Olsen says.

Twenty-four-year-old Emma Maguire lost her job at a Wellington cinema in June.

"Losing your job like that's quite sudden and quite sharp," she says.

Despite having a masters degree, she's applied for 60 jobs without success.

"It's hard, it's affecting my mental health negatively," she says.

The Government's investing in shovel-ready infrastructure projects to create jobs and boost the economy.

But economists Newshub spoke to say it boosts male-dominated industries, benefitting men far more than women.

"We cannot just focus on shovel-ready projects as the silver bullet because if we do too much of that we are not going to be assisting the number of young females who are currently out of work," Olsen says.

The two women vying for the country's top job back the scheme.

"Many women are involved in shovel-ready projects particularly around financing, administration," National leader Judith Collins says.

Douglas is starting a new venture - teaching women the skills they need to run farms.

"New Zealand women are just so resilient," she says.

Resilience needed for the years to come.