Covid-19 Report- The Impact on Women in Coventry
Date Posted: Thursday 9th July 2020
This report explores the key gendered impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on women in the UK, with a focus on the city of Coventry.
This report looks at the key gendered impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on women in the UK, with a focus on the city of Coventry. It makes recommendations for a gender- sensitive approach to ‘building back better’ after the crisis. Covid-19 is a global public health crisis, which has already triggered an unparalleled socioeconomic crisis. Whist we know the majority of serious cases, particularly those resulting in death are higher for men, the crisis has worsened many pre-existing inequalities for women.
Key impacts & prior inequalities
Women expect their incomes to fall by 26%, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, a higher rate than men (18%). Women from minority groups in particular are being affected by falls in income and financial insecurity. A quarter of BAME mothers and a third of disabled mothers report struggling to feed their children and 42% of single parents are anticipating living on less than £500 per month. The current social security safety net is not enough to protect many people from destitution and migrant women with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) are particularly unprotected. Universal Credit payments have been increased by £20 per week but the five-week wait for first payment has been maintained. A quarter of adults are not able to make ends meet for over a month if they lose their main source of income, which means that many families and individuals will struggle with the UC five-week wait. Foodbank use has doubled in Coventry since the start of lockdown, as a consequence of the job crisis and the inadequate social security safety net.
Employment: Mothers are more likely to be losing their jobs and to be furloughed.
The unequal and gendered distribution of care responsibilities is driving many women, particularly mothers, out of the labour market due to school closure. 16% of mothers have lost their job permanently as a result of the current crisis (compared to 11% of fathers) and 34% of mothers have been furloughed (30% of fathers). Women are the vast majority of key workers (77% of healthcare and 85% of social care workforces) and the majority of workers in shutdown sectors. In the West Midlands, a similar proportion of women work in healthcare (79%) and social care (84%). Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women are overrepresented in both sectors. As the government’s employment-support schemes are wound up, there are concerns that millions of women who had their salaries and jobs protected in the first months of the pandemic will start to be made redundant by employers.
Unpaid work: Mothers are doing 50% (or two hours a day) more childcare than fathers
The usual childcare arrangements for most parents have fallen through, with nurseries and schools closed from March and most not due to fully reopen until September. Informal childcare from family or friends is not possible under social distancing rules. Mothers are facing more competing demands on their time, with only half of their paid work time uninterrupted (compared to 70% of fathers). Mothers are doing 50% (or two hours) more childcare a day than fathers.This is being reflected in higher levels of stress, anxiety and decreasing well-being for mothers. Many parents are now being expected to return to work but without childcare in place this is impossible, particularly for mothers who are already more likely than fathers to drop out of the labour market for caring responsibilities. Formal childcare is unaffordable for many parents and with many nurseries facing closure in coming months this will have severe consequences for mothers’ employment.
Loss of support & services:
Many women and vulnerable children are losing access to lifeline support as voluntary organisations and statutory services have had to change the way they deliver support. Due to the closure of schools, many professionals are concerned that cases of abuse and neglect of children are going undetected. Voluntary organisations are grappling with an unprecedented shift in ways of working in a short period of time and are finding it harder to reach the most vulnerable and marginalised women and children under lockdown rules. Organisations are preparing for a surge in demand as lockdown starts to ease but they will struggle with reduced worker capacity (due to illness or self-isolation) and finding extra funding.
BAME people are at higher risk of Covid-19, both in health and economic terms. Close to half (42.9%) of BAME women expect to struggle to make ends meet in the coming months and to be in more debt than before the pandemic. A quarter of BAME mothers are struggling to feed their children. BAME women, in particular Black mothers, are more likely to be concerned about their access to medication and healthcare, which is a result of the higher risk and pre-existing racial inequalities and discrimination within the NHS.
Disabled women are one of the groups hardest hit financially and they are losing support from government and other people at a higher rate than others. Over a third of disabled women are struggling to feed their children and report that their household has already run out of money. Disabled women were the most likely group to say they will be in more debt as a consequence of the current pandemic. A fifth of disabled women report having lost support from government. Two fifths report having lost support from other people, leading to a higher proportion reporting feelings of isolation and deterioration of mental health. The easements in social care standards and the suspensions of most non-urgent treatment in the NHS brought about in March to prevent system being overwhelmed, have resulted in many disabled women (and men) seeing social and health care support withdrawn.
• The government should invest in a care led recovery to stimulate employment, reduce the gender employment gap and counter the inevitable economic recession as the UK comes out of lockdown.
• Introduce a paid parental leave scheme for parents who are required to go back to work but have no alternative care/supervision arrangements in place for their children. This should be implemented now and until childcare settings and schools are operating at full capacity again.
• The HMRC should collect and publish sex-disaggregated data on redundancies since March to inform their policy on the next stage of employment support, and to ensure that mothers, pregnant women and other people with care responsibilities are not being discriminated against.