Crisis of care for women in England as lock down lifts

Date Posted: Thursday 9th July 2020

New data shows that childcare costs between a fifth and a quarter of women’s salaries.

Mothers in England are facing a childcare crisis as the Covid-19 lockdown lifts and people return to work.

  • Childcare in England for the youngest ages (no ‘free hours’ entitlement) costs between 45% and 60% of women’s salaries.
  • Even with the free hours entitlement, childcare costs between a fifth and a quarter of women’s salaries.

The research undertaken by Women’s Budget Group is part of a more in- depth report that provides the first ever analysis on the impact of the lockdown on women in a particular city.

The report, Covid- 19 report- The Impact on Women in Coventry, published by the Women’s Budget Group and Coventry Women’s Partnership warns that:

  • 10,000 childcare providers in England are expected to be permanently closed within the next 12 months, which will result in fewer than 150,000 childcare places.
  • Mothers are doing 50% (or two hours a day) more childcare than fathers.

Access the full report here.

As a result, the report warns of a two-tier recovery, with many women unable to return to work because of lack of childcare and high cost for those places that are available.

For many families across England who stays at home to care will be an economic decision based on earnings. Mothers have been disproportionately hit when it comes to employment, having lost their jobs, hours and been furloughed at a higher rate than men.

  • 16% of mothers have lost their job permanently as a result of the current crisis (compared to 11% of fathers). 34% of mothers have been furloughed (30% of fathers).
  • Before the crisis, mothers were in paid work at 80% of the rate that fathers were. During the crisis so far, it has already dropped to 70%. Therefore it is likely that women will be filling in the care gap.
  • Women were already overrepresented in part-time (74%) and involuntary part-time (57%) employment, as well as temporary (54%) and zero hours contracts (54%).
  • Sectors that have been hardest hit by the lockdown, such as hospitality, travel and non-food retail employ a high number of young women: 36% compared with 25% of young men. Overall, 17% of women compared with 13% of men work in these sectors.
  • There were 600,000 fewer employees on employers’ payroll in May 2020. There has been a decrease of 8.9% of total weekly hours worked in UK compared to same period last year.
  • Fewer eligible self-employed women are claiming SEISS grants compared to men (66% compared with 72%). Their claims are also lower. This is to be expected as FT self-employed women earn 32% less than self-employed men.

The report recommends immediate action Government should take:

  • 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.


Dr Sara Reis, Head of Research and Policy at WBG and author of the report said:
“Government plans to get the workforce back to work have failed to consider the caring responsibilities that women have which risks reversing the decades of progress made to increase gender equality in the workplace. Although this report is looking at the experiences of women in Coventry their concerns echo what many women and women’s organisations have been saying across the country. The government cannot expect people to return to work without providing the care structures for parents and people caring for frail relatives.

Women have absorbed the extra responsibilities that school closures and the pandemic have brought and so a government response that fails to take care provision seriously risks leaving women behind. Women’s Budget Group research shows that any investment in care in the UK would produce 2.7 times as many jobs as an equivalent investment in construction. A care-led response, investing in the social and childcare sector, is good for employment, good for the economy, good for the environment and good for gender equality.”

Anna Johnston, Researcher at WBG and author of the report said:
“This report provides a detailed study of the experiences of women in one city across healthcare, employment, social security, education, childcare and within the women’s sector. It shines a light on the colliding crises many women are facing, as well as a broad spectrum of impacts on different groups of women. As the country opens up following lockdown, the government must recognise the gendered effects of the crisis, and prioritise a care led recovery.”

Faye Pettitt, Coventry Women’s Partnership (CovWP) Connector said:
“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on women we’re supporting across the city, including newly arrived, migrant and BAME women. Women have experienced deterioration of mental health, increased risk to physical health, increased risk of domestic abuse, financial insecurity and an increase in food poverty, lack of appropriate information and guidance, and huge pressures in child care and parenting. Partners across Coventry Women’s Partnership continue to work resourcefully to fully support women and expect an increase in demand for services as we move out of lockdown restrictions. CovWP welcomes the recommendations set out in this report and urges the opportunity to build back better and not return to ‘normal’, as the ‘normal’ perpetuates gender inequalities that the crisis evidently exacerbated.”

For more information contact The UK Women’s Budget Group:

Thaira Mhearban: / 07366 58951/ Communications Officer

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson: / 07957 338582/ Director

Further reading: For a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on women’s economic position check out the latest WBG research here.

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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.

About Coventry Women’s Partnership
Coventry Women’s Partnership is a unique 3-year project, led by Foleshill Women’s Training – A Centre for women, which has been created with 5 organisations in Coventry to ensure women in the city feel supported, empowered and believed. They want to break down barriers in access to crucial services, and to make support easier. The partnership includes Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC), Central England Law Centre Coventry and Kairos WWT.