UK Policy Briefings
Autumn Budget 2021: Women and employment in the recovery from Covid-19
Date Posted: Friday 22nd October 2021
“The pandemic has caused an economic recession that has changed the employment landscape for everyone. However, it has led to an exacerbation of pre-existing inequalities which disproportionately impact women, young people, Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, disabled people and those on low incomes. This briefing lays out what we know about the impact of the pandemic on women’s employment and earnings.”
The Covid crisis and its associated economic contraction has had specific impacts on women at work. Women are the majority of employees in industries with some of the highest Covid-19 job losses, including retail, accommodation and food services. There are also twice as many women as men in the bottom 10% of earners, meaning they were hit hard during the first lockdown, when those in low-paid work were twice as likely as those in higher income jobs to be placed on furlough or have their hours reduced.
46% of mothers who were made redundant during the pandemic cite the lack of adequate childcare provision as the cause. 70% of women with caring responsibilities who requested furlough following school closures in 2021 had their request denied. This has led to almost half (48%) being worried about negative treatment from an employer because of childcare responsibilities.
By the end of 2020, 546,000 women had made SEISS claims (totalling £1.2 billion), compared with 1,376,000 men (totalling £4.2 billion). There was a clear gendered difference in the actual take up rate, with only 51% of eligible women claiming, compared to 60% of eligible men.
As job vacancies increase, it is important to focus on the quality of jobs as well as quantity. The recent surge in vacancies is entirely driven by an increase in low-paid jobs, in which women are more likely to be working.
“Between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, the number of BAME women workers fell by 17%, compared to 1% for White women.”
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women began the pandemic with one of the lowest rates of employment (62.5%) and the highest rate of unemployment (8.8%, compared with 4.5% for White people and 8.5% for BAME people overall). Between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, the number of BAME women workers fell by 17%, compared to 1% for White women.
Employment for disabled people has fallen more rapidly during the crisis than for non-disabled people (1.9% compared with 1.1%). Disabled people are currently 2.5 times more likely to be out of work than non-disabled people.
The furlough scheme came to an end at the end of September 2021; at the end of July 2021 there were still 1.6 million people using the scheme. The impact of the end of furlough on women remains to be seen.