COVID 19 and ADF Partner Employment Part One: the labour market

The impact of COVID19 on the labour market has not been equal. As this article in the Guardian Australia reports half of all job losses since February came from just 5 of the 102 occupation groups – sales assistants, hospitality workers, sports and personal service workers, hospitality and retail managers, and mobile plant operators. Just 10% of Australia’s workers accounted for 50% of the job losses! And there is a strong gender element with the pandemic impacting men and women differently – women have experienced higher job losses than men, and a greater reduction in working hours. Much of this has to do with gender segregation in the workforce and the hardest hit occupations being female-dominated. Kristine Ziwica writes for Women’s Agenda that “Women are over-represented among the Covid19 job losses, over-represented in the industries most affected, and they are more likely to be in part-time or insecure work”. Lower paid occupations and young people are also over-represented in job losses and reduced hours.

This week the government released the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement with Minister for Women Marise Payne stating  that women have been significantly affected by this pandemic with an increase in family violence, women-dominated industries hit hard, predominance of women in vulnerable jobs and industries, and women on the frontline in essential services like health care and education. 

This is important to understand in the context of the ADF partner population – the overwhelming majority of whom are women. ADF partners are no strangers to insecure work and non-standard employment. Insecure work comes in many forms.  The 2017 ADF Families Survey reported that only 1/3 of respondents were in full-time employment, 1/3 were in casual or part-time employment and 1/3 were not in the labour force (either unemployed, or not working but not looking for work). Of the 10% of employed respondents who were in casual employment at least half of those wanted to work more hours. Of the 3% who were self-employed 1/3 wanted more hours and of the 18% in part time employment nearly 1/3 wanted more hours. The 2017 survey reported 12% of respondents were underemployed. And of course the mobility aspect of Defence life means partners may not remain employed with a company/organization for longer than the duration of the posting cycle. The 2019 ADF Families Survey indicated a negative impact of relocations on pay and earnings, on the type of work available, on responsibility levels, and on the number of hours worked. 

There are some positive indications from the 2019 ADF Families Survey however. Although the data set is small the report stated that 46% of respondents were employed in professional occupations, and at a higher rate than women in the Australian population in general. The top sub-groups of professionals were health, business, and education – occupations in demand during the pandemic, or more likely to be able to work remotely. However, the other main occupation groups included community and personal service workers and sales workers –occupations included in those hardest-hit by the pandemic, and worryingly 77% of ADF partners working in sales reported that they were not working in their preferred field of work indicating they may already have been underutilized in the labour market.

Covid has dramatically changed the labour market and these changes are ongoing. In July the number of unemployed people in Australia topped 1 million for the first time on record and there is fierce competition for jobs. The unemployment rate is set to hit 10% by the end of the year and remain high for years to come. For ADF partners seeking work this could mean that any challenges they are already facing may be exacerbated. Which leads us to… Part Two Career Development

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Part Two: career development and career management

Part Three: flexible and remote work

Part Four: essential workers

Part Five: domestic and caring work

Part Six: financial security

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