Men do less unpaid work than women during Covid-19 crisis

The problem of inequalities for young women is being made worse by the Covid-19 crisis, leaving many feeling underpaid, undervalued and worried about the future, a survey suggests.

Research by the Young Women’s Trust revealed that many have lost their job as a result of the pandemic, while others are struggling to exist or taking on unpaid 
care.

The report, based on interviews with almost 200 women aged 18-30, found that half said they were financially affected by the crisis, with one in five having already lost their job or future work because of the lockdown.

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Young women reported taking on significant unpaid caring responsibilities as people fall ill with the virus and children remain unable go to school or daycare.

Replies to the survey included:

- “Two weeks before lockdown I just started my apprenticeship, so my employer had to let me go, and I had not been referred for furlough. Meaning I have no means of income except from my pay of two weeks which is only an apprentice wage.”

- “I am awaiting my first Universal Credit payment since I stopped working just before the crisis. So that has left me with no money to buy essentials.”

- “I’m trying to teach my son whilst teaching and supporting all my students, whilst also making sure we are safe and have all the things we need. It’s mentally exhausting and I’m barely sleeping through the stress of it all.”

Joe Levenson, of the Young Women’s Trust, said: “Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, young women, especially those struggling to live on low or no pay, were too often ignored, undervalued and underpaid.

“As vital workers and caregivers, young women are currently at the core of the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but, as our research shows, they are facing financial hardship, taking on yet more caring responsibilities and their mental health is suffering.

“We are especially concerned that women’s equality will move backwards in the absence of a strong focus within Government and from employers on preventing this from happening, and are urging those in charge of recovery planning to ensure that no young woman is left 
behind.”

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A separate study yesterday found men are doing more than an hour less unpaid labour than women each day, despite increasing their responsibilities during the coronavirus lockdown.

Time spent on childcare has risen by more than a third (35 per cent) during the lockdown, while care from older people such as grandparents has plummeted 90 per cent, the survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

Men increased their unpaid labour, such as caring for children or adults, housework and volunteering, by 22 minutes to two hours and 25 minutes a day, the study found.

But while women’s burden was reduced by 20 minutes a day, to three hours and 32 minutes, they are still giving an hour and seven minutes more of their time than men.

The Time Use survey compared data from 28 March to 26 April with figures from the previous study between April 2014 and December 2015.

Before the lockdown, the gap in unpaid work between men and women was an hour and 50 minutes.

People over 60, such as grandparents, are now providing an average of an hour and 44 minutes less childcare a week on average as a result of shielding and social distancing measures. Those without children, such as friends or extended family members, reduced their caring by an hour and 13 minutes a week.

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While men with children increased their amount of childcare by 58 per cent, they still did 15 minutes less a day than women. This was highly dependent on the age of the child, with women spending four hours and five minutes caring for a child under eight, compared with two hours and 50 minutes by men.

The study found that people with low household incomes have been spending more time doing paid work since the lockdown began.

Those with monthly household incomes up to £1,700 have spent an extra 21 minutes a day on average doing paid work, compared with a drop of around 32 minutes for those on monthly incomes of £1,700 to £3,300.

The ONS said the increase in working time for people on low household incomes could be because they are more likely to be in jobs that cannot be done from home and have had to continue going into work during the lockdown.

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