Crises Collide: Women and Covid-19

Date Posted: Thursday 9th April 2020

Our latest briefing sets out the immediate impact that Covid- 19 crisis is having on women that needs to be addressed. 'At the end of this immediate emergency we cannot return to business as usual.'

Crises Collide: Women and Covid-19

Covid-19 is a global public health crisis which is fast developing into a full-blown economic crisis. This has specific and different impact on men and women and there has been an ongoing failure to take the different economic position of women and men into account.

Data shows that 73% of Covid 19 critical care cases in England, Wales and NI are men.[1] However, women are vulnerable to the impacts of the Covid 19 crisis in many other ways.

Our briefing Crises Collide: Women and Covid-19 sets out the immediate impact that Covid- 19 crisis is having on women that needs to be addressed. Our briefing highlights that at the end of this immediate emergency we cannot return to business as usual.

Full report can be accessed here

Key facts: Women and Covid- 19

  • Women are on the frontline of the Covid- 19 crisis. Women are the majority of health and care workers. 77% of healthcare workers are women,[2] and 83% of the social care workforce are women.[3]
  • Women are the majority of workers with highest exposure to Covid 19. Of the 3,200,000 workers in ‘high risk’ roles, 77% are women.[4] Over a million of these workers are paid below 60% median wages. 98% are women. [5]
  • Young women are disproportionately likely to work in the sectors that have been hit hardest by the lock-down. 36% of young women worked in sectors that have been closed down including restaurants, shops, leisure facilities and travel and tourism.[6]
  • Women are more likely to be low paid and in insecure employment. This has a specific impact on women, for example being eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.
  • 69% of women are low paid earners. [7]
  • 74% of women are in part- time employment.
  • 54% of women are on zero-hours contract
  • Women are the majority of people living in poverty and female headed households are more likely to be poor.[8] The Covid- 19 crisis will have specific impact on poorer households who were already struggling to make ends meet. 45% of lone parents are living in poverty and of these 90% are single mothers.[9]
  • Black Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME), disabled, low-income women and single mothers will be particularly affected by a gender-insensitive response to this crisis as their economic position is more disadvantaged and in some cases exposure to contagion is likely to be greater.
  • BAME communities are disproportionately likely to need critical care. This may be because of increased prevalence of health-related problems among BAME people over 65 and diseases such as diabetes.
  • BAME people are also disproportionately likely to be working in the health and social care sector, so at greater risk of exposure to Covid-19.
  • On average, women carry out 60% more unpaid work than men.[10] . Ongoing closures of schools, nurseries and other childcare services is likely to increase the unpaid work that women carry out.
  • Women are more likely to experience domestic and sexual violence. Since the lockdown National Domestic Abuse Helpline has reported a 25% increase in calls. 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse [11]: that is 1.3 million women under 60 in the last year alone. [12]

Over the last few weeks, the Government has demonstrated unprecedented agility in responding to the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. This demonstrates that change is both desirable and possible. We are calling on the Government to go further to ensure that women, particularly vulnerable groups, are being protected by the impact of Covid- 19.

Key Recommendations

  • There should be a right to request furlough and part time furlough. The full range of people who are eligible for furlough should be widely publicised.
  • The Government should introduce a paid parental leave scheme for parents of children who are not covered by the furlough scheme.
  • Statutory Sick pay should be increased, and the earnings threshold abolished. The Government needs to take urgent action to extend sick pay to the self-employed.
  • The calculation of support for the self-employed should exclude periods of time off work to care, including maternity leave.
  • Child Benefit should be increased to £50 per child per week to cover loss of free school meals and cover some costs of children being at home full time[13].
  • Carers’ allowance should be increased
  • The two-child limit and overall benefit cap should be abolished.
  • NRPF must be suspended immediately.
  • The VAWG sector needs immediate emergency funding, and longer-term support to meet the expected surge in cases when lockdown is lifted.
  • The Tampon Tax fund should be re-purposed to provide emergency core funding for specialist women’s organisations facing increasing pressures as a result of Covid-19

Women’s Budget Group Director Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson said:

“Our analysis on the gendered impact of Covid- 19 shows that women are facing the highest risks of exposure and economic shocks to the pandemic. The failure to take in to account the different economic position of women and men and the specific challenges women face – including their higher rates of poverty, homelessness, disproportionate load of unpaid care work and widespread violence against women – could see us going backwards on women’s equality.

The response to the economic downturn ahead cannot be further austerity, unfettered consumption and individualism. We must learn lessons from this crisis to do things differently to prioritise both people and planet, care and community.”

Further reading:

Full report can be accessed here

A full list of all our gendered analysis of Covid- 19 can be found here.

Sign up to receive regular updates from WBG on the gendered impact of Covid- 19 as it develops.

Media enquiries:

Thaira Mhearban, Communications Officer: / 07736 658951

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director: / 07957 338582

About Women’s Budget Group

The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is an independent network of leading academic researchers, policy experts and campaigners.

Our vision is of a caring economy that promotes equality between women and men.

Twitter: @WomensBudgetGrp