Work-from-home during COVID-19: Accounting for the care economy to build back better

In the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s dwellings suddenly became a predominant site of economic activity. We argue that, predictably, policy-makers and employers took the home for granted as a background support of economic life. Acting as if home is a cost-less resource that is free for appropriation in an emergency, ignoring how home functions as a site of gendered relations of care and labour, and assuming home is a largely harmonious site, all shaped the invisibility of the imposition. Taking employee flexibility for granted and presenting work-from-home as a privilege offered by generous employers assumed rapid adaptation. As Australia emerges from lockdown, ‘building back better’ to meet future shocks entails better supporting adaptive capabilities of workers in the care economy, and of homes that have likewise played an unacknowledged role as buffer and shelter for the economy. Investing in infrastructure capable of providing a more equitable basis for future resilience is urgent to reap the benefits that work-from-home offers. This article points to the need for rethinking public investment and infrastructure priorities for economic recovery and reconstruction in the light of a gender perspective on COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ experience.

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Jenkins F, Smith J. Work-from-home during COVID-19: Accounting for the care economy to build back better. The Economic and Labour Relations Review. January 2021
ANU Gender Institute member authors
Fiona Jenkins
Julie Smith





Gender Institute

Date posted

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute