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When crises collide


Women's Budget Group, briefing, COVID-19, impact, women,There will be additional challenges for women and women’s services.

The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has produced a briefing that sets out the immediate impact that the Covid-19 crisis is having on women.

It needs to be addressed.

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

The briefing ‘Crises Collide: Women and Covid-19’ also highlights that at the end of this current emergency we cannot return to business as usual.

Research has found that:

The majority of health and care workers are women: 77 per cent of healthcare workers are women, as are 83 per cent of the social care workforce.

The majority of workers with the highest exposure to Covid-19 are women. Of the 3,200,000 workers in ‘high risk’ roles, 77 per cent are women.

Over a million of these workers are paid below 60 per cent median wages. 98 per cent are women.

Young women are disproportionately more likely to work in the sectors that have been hit hardest by the lockdown. 36 per cent of young women and 25 per cent of young men worked in sectors that have been closed down including restaurants, shops, leisure facilities and travel and tourism.

Women are more likely to be low paid and in insecure employment. The majority of low paid earners are women (69 per cent), and the majority of those in part-time employment (74 per cent), in involuntary part-time employment (57 per cent), in temporary employment (54 per cent), on zero-hours contracts (54 per cent) and in part-time self-employment (59 per cent) are women.

The majority of people living in poverty are women and female-headed households are more likely to be poor. For example, 45 per cent of lone parents (90 per cent of whom are women) are living in poverty.

Pre Covid-19, women were more likely to struggle with debt and bills. 39 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men reported it was a struggle to keep up with bills, some or most of the time, 26 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men said they ran out of money by the end of the month and 29 per cent of women and 23 per cent of men said they would not be able to make ends meet for a month or less if they lost their main source of income.

On average, women carry out 60 per cent more unpaid work than men. This means they earn less, own less and are more likely to be living in poverty.

Women are more likely to experience domestic and sexual violence and abuse. 20 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men have suffered sexual assault, including attempts, since age 16, equivalent to an estimated 3.4 million women and 631,000 men.

More than 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse during her lifetime: that is 1.3 million women under 60 in the last year alone.

The majority (67 per cent) of people who are homeless are women, with single parents making up two-thirds of homeless families with children.

And as the current crisis lifts, there will be additional challenges for women and women’s services.

It is likely that organisations dealing with violence against women and girls will see a further surge in demand as women who have been unable to get to any support while at home in lockdown with their abuser seek help.

And there are also concerns that women who have been unable to work while children are off school may be vulnerable to redundancy.

There must be an acknowledgement that this crisis has exposed the state of our public services and the precarity of people’s lives, especially for women and other marginalised groups.

The response to the economic downturn ahead cannot be further austerity, unfettered consumption and individualism.

The Women’s Budget Group’s Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy will report in Autumn 2020 and hopes to inform the post-pandemic socio-economic reform desperately needed to enable the economy to become more resilient and compassionate in the future.

To read the full briefing, click here.

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