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Women may never recover from COVID-induced financial and social inequality

Saleha Riaz
·3 min read
In September/October 2020, women were doing 99% more unpaid childcare than men, according to official figures. Photo: Getty Images
In September/October 2020, women were doing 99% more unpaid childcare than men, according to official figures. Photo: Getty Images

Women’s well-being has been more negatively affected than men’s during the COVID pandemic, and this could have lifelong consequences, according to a report by the Office of National Statistics.

The study said women were more likely to be furloughed, to spend significantly less time working from home, and more time on unpaid household work and childcare.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “This will have far-reaching financial consequences. Women who have faced a financial penalty by taking a career break in early years as parents will now have that penalty exacerbated by taking another year out of the workplace.

“It means when more caring responsibilities come up later in life – like looking after parents or grandchildren – they could be earning even less than their partner, so they might be in the frame for this too.”

Data has shown that In September/October 2020, women were doing 99% more unpaid childcare than men. In January/February 2021, 67% of women versus 52% of men were involved in home-schooling.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?

“Women need to take stock. If they have taken the brunt of the career hit during the pandemic, they need to understand how that will affect them over the long term, what it will do to their long term planning for things like pensions, and how they can close the gap. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the gender gap that has opened up during the pandemic hurts women financially for the rest of their lives,” Coles added.

READ MORE: 70% of working women being held back in careers due to pandemic

Women and men were both spending less time on household work and childcare in September/October 2020 than before the pandemic. However, women have consistently done more of it throughout. In September/October 2020, they were doing 64% more household work and childcare than men.

Men started doing more of the household work at the outset of the pandemic (13 minutes a day more). However, by September/October 2020, they were doing less than before the pandemic struck (by 5 minutes).

Coles explained that in some cases one parent has had to request to remain on furlough for childcare reasons.

The fact that women are more likely to be on a lower wage than men means it made financial sense for them to stay at home.

However, "this hasn’t been a positive choice for many of them. Women reported higher anxiety, depression and loneliness than men, and throughout the pandemic, men are been far more likely to say they’re not worried about the effect of the pandemic on their lives."

A recent report by Deloitte has shown that the majority of working women have been held back in their careers due to the pandemic.

Nearly 70% of women who experienced negative disruptions due to the pandemic are now concerned about their ability to progress in their career, the report said.

And yet another study has said that some 35% of women in the UK have faced discrimination amid COVID-related job loss, promotion loss or pay cuts.

Watch: How to prevent getting into debt