The Covid-19 gender trap that could last a generation and set back equal pay for 90 years A lack of childcare
The pandemic has left women with a heavy economic price to pay, discovers Marianna Hunt
Women will be thousands of pounds worse off and have their careers pushed back by years due to Covid-19.
Data shows that not only have they been more likely to lose their job during the pandemic, they are also taking on a greater burden of childcare and household duties in lockdown.
The impact could last a generation, with pension pots hit and the gender pay gap widening as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The Daily Telegraph has launched a campaign, Equality Check, calling on the Government to consider the disproportionate effect its Covid-19 policies are having on women.
Women are more likely to work in sectors that have had to shut down during lockdown, research by think tank the Resolution Foundation has shown.
Almost 20pc of women work in industries such as retail and hospitality that have suffered job losses and earnings cuts, compared to 13pc of men.
Chores and childcare
Women are taking on a disproportionate burden of household responsibilities while schools and nurseries remain closed. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that mothers are spending around 10 hours a day looking after children – two hours more than fathers.
Mothers are also spending almost two hours more on chores than fathers. A lack of childcare has meant that thousands have had to cut down their hours or stop work entirely.
The motherhood penalty
Mothers are 47pc more likely than fathers to have lost or quit their job since the lockdown began, the IFS found. Around 16pc of mothers are no longer in work as a result of the pandemic, compared to 11pc of fathers.
Those that are still in paid work have reduced their hours substantially and by more than fathers. Some volunteered to be put on furlough, have taken unpaid leave or quit their job in order to look after children.
Other research from Understanding Society, an annual study of British households, showed that women are almost twice as likely to have reduced their hours because of caring duties than men during Covid-19.
Discrimination at work
One in four new or soon-to-be mothers claim to have faced discrimination at work during lockdown, such as being singled out for redundancy or furlough, according to the Trades Union Congress. Its research is based on the experiences of more than 3,400 women.
They also reported being forced to take sick leave when they were not unwell, having to take unpaid leave or start their maternity leave early, as well as being unable to go to work because their employer failed to make their workplace safe for them.
All of these actions are illegal. If workplaces are not safe for pregnant women and new mothers, employers must suspend them on full pay.
Women wanting to return to work after maternity leave may struggle, as nurseries and childminders are having to reduce their numbers to meet social distancing requirements and many are no longer accepting new children.
Prior to Covid-19 parents were already struggling to access childcare, due to prohibitive costs and a lack of supply. Only around half of councils in England and Wales had enough childcare places for working parents last year, a report by charity Coram Family and Childcare revealed.
As family duties have disproportionately fallen on women, there is a risk that many mothers will be forced to give up work if they cannot find childcare. More than 220,000 people have signed a petition to extend paid maternity leave by three months to prevent mothers who cannot find nursery places from having to quit their jobs.
Women going down to part-time hours or losing their job during the pandemic may struggle to return to full-time employment, as Britain is expected to plunge deep into recession this year.
Any time out of a job or working fewer hours will significantly reduce their pension, meaning they have less to retire on. Calculations by
Telegraph Money suggest they could end up £12,000 worse off in retirement as a result.
Even before coronavirus women’s pensions were much smaller than men’s. The average woman retires with just a fifth of the pension wealth as the average man. This is equal to £35,800 versus £179,091, according to data from the Chartered Insurance Institute, a trade body.
A long time coming
Prior to Covid-19, the Fawcett Society, a women’s charity, calculated that it would take 60 years for women to reach pay parity with men.
However, it said that the crisis and subsequent economic fallout could delay this by three decades, meaning women may continue earning less until the year 2110.
Last year female employees in Britain earned on average 12pc less than male ones.
In March the Government said companies would not have to report their gender pay gap – the difference between average male and female earnings – in light of the Covid-19 crisis.
Of the firms that chose to do so anyway, data suggests the gap has increased to almost 13pc.
‘More than 220,000 people have signed a petition to extend paid maternity leave by three months’