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Covid has hit women's employment hard - and threatens to roll back equality

 

Disruption has disproportionately affected women because men and women tend to work in different jobs and sectors

Women’s employment continues to be disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – one year into the pandemic.

A new report by Close The Gap shows that women’s unemployment in Scotland rose twice as fast as men’s at the start of lockdown (March-May 2020), a rise of 1.5% on the previous year compared with 0.7% for men.

It says job disruption has disproportionately affected women because men and women tend to work in different jobs and sectors.

More than a third (39%) of young women workers under 18 were furloughed in the UK, compared with 29% of male workers of the same age, and 23% of women aged 18-24 were furloughed compared with 19% of men.

Women’s concentration in low-paid service sectors such as retail and hospitality puts them at risk of not just furlough but also reduced hours and pay cuts, and future job losses.

Meanwhile, school and nursery closures have driven the increase in childcare making it difficult to do their paid work from home, where this is required by their employer.

Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, said: “One year on, women’s incomes and jobs remain harder hit by Covid-19. The existing inequalities women face in the labour market, such as their propensity to be employed in low-paid service sectors like hospitality and retail, means they’re at the sharp end of job disruption.

“Covid-19 is pushing many women, especially young women and black and minority ethnic women, into poverty as they struggle with job losses, having their hours cut, and being furloughed on reduced pay. 

“The closure of schools and nurseries put an immense pressure on many women as they struggled to manage childcare and home learning while also being expected to do their job from home. Covid-19 risks rolling back the hard-won gains on women’s equality, and widening the gender pay gap.

“Scotland’s economic recovery must protect women’s jobs and lift them out of poverty. Women who’ve lost their job also need to be supported into good quality employment rather than being funnelled back into other low-paid work.”

 

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