How COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the lives of women in the UK
The UK nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to everyday life. Gradually research is emerging on the gendered experiences of the pandemic, and the ways in which COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the lives of women across the UK.
British Think Tank Autonomy has revealed that women account for 77% of the 3 million workers categorised in ‘high risk’ roles. In performing these roles, women are at greater risk of exposure to and contraction of the virus, which has the potential to leave sufferers with dangerous long-term health implications. Concerns have also been raised about the health and wellbeing of care workers, the majority of whom are women. For women working in this sector, there is an increased potential for the development of mental health conditions as they are forced to bear the emotional brunt of the pandemic.
Women’s employment outside of the health and social care sector has also been impacted. Research conducted by the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has shown that women are around one third more likely to work in a job sector that has been shut down due to the pandemic, such as the hair and beauty sector, retail and hospitality. They have been left to rely on unemployment benefits or the Furlough system. Natasha Mudhar, global chief executive and co-founder of The World We Want has stated that “from an economic perspective, low-paid, young, working-class women are known to be hit the hardest”.
The impacts of unemployment are not exclusively economic. Going to work is an important means of independence for many women and allows them to distinguish between the workplace and the home, an environment where women perform around 60% of unpaid domestic duties. Women in jobs that can be performed from home are now faced with the challenge of juggling work tasks with housework and childcare. IFS reported that fathers got on average twice as many uninterrupted working hours as mothers. Researchers from University of Sussex found that ‘67% of working women felt like the ‘default’ parent most of the time’ and ‘70% of mothers feel completely or mostly responsible for home-schooling’. There is concern from these research bodies that the pandemic will intensify existing gender inequalities, and they fear a regression to a ‘1950s way of living’ for women.
Women and children in abusive relationships are in a position of extreme risk, with the lockdown resulting in entrapment in an unsafe space with their abuser, and economic stress potentially exacerbating existing violence and abuse. Karen Ingala Smith, the founder of Counting Dead Women, stated that ‘the number of women killed by men over the first three weeks since lockdown is the highest it’s been for at least 11 years’ and Refuge reported a 950% increase in visits to its website. Domestic abuse charities have had to adapt to a situation where abusers are able to be ever-present in the lives of their victims, and therefore able to exercise even more control over them.
If you need support, Cardiff Women’s Aid is here to help:
– Call us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 02920 460 566.
– Text us, Monday to Friday 9am – 7pm and weekends 9am – 4.30pm on 07727 462 793.
– Our webchat is available Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm, at rise-cardiff.cymru
– You can arrange a convenient time for a video chat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use this email address to access support via email if you’d prefer.
– Access to peer support is available via our online survivors’ forum. To request to join, email SHOUT@cardiffwomensaid.org.uk
– Join our free SHOUT workshops for women, to find out more, email SHOUT@cardiffwomensaid.org.uk
Author: Beth Gilson, CWA Volunteer Blogger