AMA head speaks out about the need for flexible care for Australia’s frontline workers
Dr Helen McArdle, Chair of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) equity inclusion and diversity committee, has spoken out about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, calling for the immediate adoption by the Commonwealth Government of flexible and affordable childcare in line with the needs of Australia’s frontline medical professionals.
Her comments come in the wake of research which suggests that during times of crisis, such as during the recent pandemic, the challenges and burdens encountered by women are exacerbated, with female participation in the workforce, economic security, political representation, health outcomes and educational achievement negatively impacted, and more so than men.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these findings played out, with Australian women making up the majority of those who lost their jobs during the initial stages, and also recording a large fall in hours worked. The literature to hand further suggests that the pandemic will likely have long term negative implications for women more so than for men, due to the financial and public health impact from women participating less in the workforce during COVID-19 (and hence having poorer health outcomes/poorer health outcomes for their families), and the compounding effect of career breaks and gender-based discrimination on career progression.
Healthcare specific impacts
Within the health care sector, nearly four in five health care workers in front line roles, tasked with managing the pandemic were women, increasing their own exposure risk, and potentially exposing their families to the virus.
As their responsibilities increased, women were more likely to have taken on childcare and schooling obligations, and household responsibilities, even among dual income couples.
At the final meeting for 2020, the AMA Federal Council discussed the impact of COVID-19 on women in the healthcare workforce, and passed a motion calling on the Commonwealth Government to:
- Recognise the disproportionate and negative impact of COVID-19 on women in workforce.
- Ensure that strategies to achieve gender equity are at the centre of national COVID-19 recovery plans.
- Commit to support gender equity by providing funding to increase access to:
- equal and reasonable paid parental and carers leave entitlements for each parent to empower men to seek an equal share of the parenting responsibility;
- flexible work arrangements for each parent, so that women can participate in the workforce without comparative disadvantage;
- domestic and family violence support (including 10 days paid leave); and
- flexible and affordable childcare so that parents can return the workplace.
The Gender Equality Act 2020, passed in Victoria, provides the AMA with “an opportunity to advocate for measures to improve gender equity within public hospitals, and the community more broadly.”
“We hope this is a mechanism to monitor change, beginning in Victoria and extending to other jurisdictions.”
For more information about the work undertaken by the AMA, please see here.