BENDIGO leaders have called for budget measures which support women, as many female-dominated industries suffer the worst fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.
The federal government will release its budget on Tuesday night, after it was delayed several months by the pandemic.
Women's Health Loddon Mallee executive officer Tricia Currie said the budget presented a unique opportunity through disruption to address structural inequities.
Women have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 driven recession, with a 5.3 per cent drop in employment between March and April, compared to 3.9 per cent for men.
In Bendigo women's unemployment doubled between January and July, while men's halved.
Ms Currie said affordable childcare was key to allowing women to participate in the workforce, boosting both the economy and diversity.
In the Loddon Mallee Ms Currie said there were already baseline problems with access to childcare.
Ms Currie said women had carried much of the emotional and physical work that came with the COVID-19 crisis, such as online learning.
"We know how important free childcare was to women, being able to stay in the workforce, particularly when remote learning came in as well," Ms Currie said.
More broadly, Ms Currie said the question, "What does this mean for women?" should be asked of every single budget strategy.
She said this would help ensure women had equal opportunities and reveal where women had been unfairly disadvantaged.
Ms Currie said stimulus such as the HomeBuilder package had primarily focused on male dominated industries. Support packages such as superannuation access set women back, as they had less super on average, she said.
City of Greater Bendigo chief executive Craig Niemann support measures had rightly focused on infrastructure and capital works, but it would be great to see programs that supported women's employment.
"A lot more women have been out of work or been challenged by COVID and their ability to work, because retail and hospitality have been affected," Mr Niemann said.
"It should be industry-based, probably. When you think of industries like construction, they are traditionally and predominantly male based. Construction has been ongoing throughout the pandemic.
"There's a real opportunity for state and federal governments to focus their efforts on employing a lot more women in our community that have been disadvantaged by the pandemic."
- With AAP.
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