Tourism, Retail Sectors 'Big Drivers' Of Female Jobs Growth

14/12/2015 2:26 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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The last time so many women were finding work in Australia Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and Crocodile Dundee was breaking records at the box office.

It was April 1986.

In the strongest result for almost 30 years, 54,000 women found employment across Australia in November, according to the latest official data.

By contrast, there were 17,300 new jobs taken up by men in November.

The numbers are even better on an yearly basis, with 224,600 female jobs created -- the biggest annual gain on record.

While the raw numbers look upbeat for Aussie women, women continue to face significant obstacles in the workplace, including pay inequality.

CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian attributed November's strong female jobs growth to booming retail and tourism sectors.

He said both industries were being supported by the lower Australian dollar, which is currently buying about 72 US cents.

"If you look at the drivers of growth that are coming through now it's not your traditional sectors, we're not seeing the growth in mining which has driven the economy for the last number of years," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Now you're seeing a lower Australian dollar supporting the tourism sector and that's supporting a lot more retail -- those jobs are more dominated by females than males.

"That's probably a big driver of what we're seeing."

He said the turnaround had been most marked in tourism which had been a "basket case" for the last five years.

One big reason for the rebound in the sector has been the 43 percent increase in spend from Chinese visitors this year, with $7.7 billion splashed out across the country by tourists from China.

More flexible work arrangements, and a pick up in part-time positions was also positive for female job-seekers, Sebastian said.

"Many employers are offering work from home, or 2 or 3 days a week work, and job-share, and that's supporting mothers coming back into the workforce as well," he added.

"You have to keep in mind that over the past 4 or 5 years we've had a mini baby boom take place as well, and you're seeing some of those mums come back into the workforce."

The growth of Australia's healthcare industry, linked to the nation's ageing population, was another contributor.

Sebastian forecast more labour demand in healthcare, especially for nurses and aged care workers -- positions often filled by women.

"It is something that will continue to strengthen incrementally," he said.

The positive news on female jobs growth was part of the pleasing picture to emerge from last month's jobs numbers, although questions have been raised about the veracity of the figures.

The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in almost two years, dropping one percentage point to 5.8 percent.

The total number of people with a job rose 71,400 in the month, according to the ABS.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the government was investing to make sure jobs growth continued for women across the economy.

She especially pointed to fields that were historically dominated by men, "like science, technology, engineering and maths".

"I'm absolutely delighted ... the investment that we are making to ensure that young girls and women know that there are jobs for them in this area," Cash, who is also Minister for Women, said.

She also acknowledged some regions, like rural Victoria, continued to suffer from downbeat job conditions largely due to a decline in manufacturing.

"We’re not going to have as much manufacturing but we’ve recognised that and in terms of the funds that we’ve put in place we have put in funds that specifically target Victoria," she added.

Commsec's Sebastian tipped the jobs market to continue to perform well in 2016, especially for women.

"Overall the labour market is going to be in much better shape over 2016," he said.

"I think there's still patchiness and we're losing jobs in some sectors but I think if there's a shining light to the Australian economy over 2015 you would have to say it was the labour market."

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