Women, lower-income earners hit hardest by social distancing, Nous finds

Women, lower-income earners hit hardest by social distancing, Nous finds


Women and lower-income earners will be disproportionately economically impacted by social distancing in the workplace, new analysis from Nous Group has revealed.

As workplaces across Australia move toward social distancing in their effort to stop to the spread of COVID-19, different jobs will be impacted in very different ways.

Nous Group, an international management consultancy, has assessed the impact of social distancing – defined as requiring people to remain at least 1.5 metres apart from each other where possible – on a range of jobs. The analysis assumes that certain jobs are essential services and will continue to be performed despite social distancing measures.

Graphic that outlines the jobs hit hardest by COVID-19 restrictions

David Diviny, a Principal and data analytics expert at Nous Group, led the research. “This novel analysis for Australia shows that social distancing requirements will impact different jobs in different ways,” David said.

“Many jobs that involve close physical proximity to other people are more likely to be done by women, such as fitness instructors and hospitality workers. And lower-income earners are also more likely to work in jobs that involve physical proximity, such as waiters and café workers.

“This information is vital in supporting governments to develop policy ideas that can buffer the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While every job will be impacted in some way by the changes we are all experiencing, some people will be particularly severely affected. It may be especially acute where it involves discretionary spending from customers, like hospitality or fitness.

”While many workplaces are encouraging their staff to work from home, this is not practical for many jobs in many industries. We will need to find ways to meet the challenge of supporting people to perform essential work while limiting the spread of the virus.”

The research draws on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Taxation Office and O*NET, an occupational information database. The data captures the extent each job requires workers to perform job tasks in close physical proximity to other people. See this graph to explore what different work contexts mean for income earners during the pandemic.

Nous is undertaking detailed modelling to create a richer picture of the impacts of social distancing on workforces and the real-time economic impact of the pandemic.

Published on 19 March 2020.