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Coronavirus pandemic widens the gender gap

  • 04/05/2020

Women are facing the harshest economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with a change in income and employment resulting in an increase to the mean gender pay gap of £62 a month, warns national poverty charity, Turn2us.  

A nationwide survey of 2,014 working aged adults reveals how women’s incomes are expected to fall by £309 (26%); compared to an 18% drop (£247) in earnings for men.

This gulf widens in two-parent households that are both employed, with women reporting an average reduction in pay of £405 per month, compared to £309 for men.

Industries such as hospitality, leisure and tourism, and the arts, have been some of the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of employees let go or furloughed. These industries employ a disproportionately higher number of women.

The charity ‘s research also reveals that female single parents face the most acute financial and social pressures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The percentage of single parent families anticipating that they will have £1,000 or less next month is 66%, up from 54% in February. That equates to 1.2 million single parents anticipating that they will be living on £1,000 or less next month, an increase of 216,000 compared to February, before covid-19 measures began.

In addition, 42% of single parents are anticipating living on less than £500 per month.

Sara Willcocks, Head of Communications at Turn2us, said:

“The gender pay gap already leaves women with much lower lifetime income than their male counterparts. What we are seeing now with the pandemic is that women are being more adversely affected, either because of their role as the primary carer of their children, or because of the nature of the sectors they work in. 

“Many of the short term responses to the crisis are welcome, but there must be a longer term plan to close the financial gender divide.  Without thinking now about issues that directly affect women’s economic situations, there is a risk that the coronavirus will further exacerbate inequalities and push back women’s rights. We urge the government to address this issue through practical policies such as mandatory gender pay gap reporting and increasing welfare benefits.”

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director at UK Women’s Budget Group, said:

“Women earned less, owned less and were more likely to be living in poverty before the pandemic; this new data shows that they are now being hit harder by the economic impact of  Covid-19. It can’t be right that over 40% of lone parents and their children will be living on less than £500 a month.  

“Too many women are still falling through gaps in the social security safety net. The Government has shown unprecedented agility within the social security system so far, but it needs to do more both to meet urgent needs in the short term and to ensure that this crisis doesn’t further widen pre-existing inequalities.”

Victoria Benson, Chief Executive at Gingerbread, said:

"Ninety per cent of the UK’s two million single parents are women and we already know that single parents have been hit hard by the wide-ranging impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. 

“For some the financial repercussions have been devastating. 70% of single parents are working but many are in lower paid jobs or rely on income from insecure work such as zero-hour contracts, which has meant that in many cases their income has simply stopped. In addition, schools are closed and children are at home which means living costs have increased. With bills rising and income falling, single parent families are being pushed further into poverty.”