ECCV’s submission to the Inquiry into Economic Equity for Victorian women is centred on women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, who are one of the most economically marginalised groups of women, for whom pre–existing inequalities were exacerbated during the pandemic. Migrant and refugee women face higher levels of unemployment when compared to migrant men, or Australian born men and women.

When they do find paid work, migrant and refugee women are more likely to be in casual or precarious work, and employed in so called ‘feminised industries’ in which wages are low, such as care, hospitality, and retail.

As this Submission indicates, these deep economic inequalities cannot be explained simply by referring to gender, lack of Australian work experience, or low English proficiency, which are commonly cited as barriers to the economic participation of migrant and refugee women. Discrimination, including racism in and out of the workplace, devalued unpaid care, and exclusion from social protection based on migration status, all contribute to migrant and refugee women’s marginalisation.

During the COVID–19 pandemic, these systemic barriers became more visible. The job cuts in casual and short term positions, the lockdown effects on industries such as retail and hospitality, and the increase in care responsibilities at home, saw many migrant and refugee women experiencing greater workloads at the same time as they faced unemployment and financial stress. For temporary migrant women in particular, the lack of eligibility to federal emergency assistance pushed many into financial hardship, despite working as frontline essential workers. These additional pressures made this group even more at risk of mental health deterioration.

In view of these challenges to gender equity, ECCV and MCWH has put forward in this submission 11 recommendations which emphasise the need for actions that enable systemic change and effectively increase meaningful economic opportunities and inclusion of Victoria’s migrant and refugee women.