The Pink Recession: Female enrolment plummets in 2020 at Australian Universities

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the number of women attending university and some vocational courses in 2020. It would appear that numbers are down as much as 7% for women overall and only 2% for men…the obvious result of the recession and the added responsibilities women have taken on during the pandemic.

The number of tertiary students who could no longer attend a tertiary university and some vocational courses was highly gendered, with 86,000 women compared to 21,200 men.

The decline in those numbers was most obvious amongst older women, with a drop of 60,000 in women over 25 years.

This is alarming in so many ways.

Those numbers say it all. Women were the first to step back from improving their educational qualifications to home school their children and care for elderly or disabled relatives. They were the first to lose their casual jobs which supported them through their courses. These were the jobs in hospitality, retail, personal and community services, care work and creative industries, all female dominated employment.

The students were completing courses in Certificate III or higher. That included bachelor and post-graduate degrees, diplomas, and some vocational courses.

What was also interesting was that while the number of women above the age of 25 dropped by 59,200, there was an increase of 26,000 in enrolments of men above the age of 25.

With casual employment contracts becoming the norm in many industries now, an area women in particular work in, many women do not have a surplus of savings and were not eligible for JobKeeper or JobSeeker, and as a consequence of this they could not continue with any educational studies they may have committed too before the pandemic commenced.

The ultimate result of this loss in educational opportunities for women will be felt across all areas of employment in the future, and particularly in areas such as teaching and nursing, both of which will require large numbers of employees in future years. Demand will not be met for these critical areas of Australia’s workforce.

Ref: Naaman Zhou

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal advice regarding your specific circumstances, please contact WR Law directly on (03) 5499 6131 or by email at

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