Disruption to the labour market caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have a disproportionate impact on women, according to a new report.
Analysis by Close the Gap, a Scottish advocacy group for women’s labour market equality, found pre-existing inequalities mean women – particularly those in lower-paid roles – will be harder hit than men.
The group’s report argues occupational segregation – where men and women do different types of jobs and are employed at different levels – is a key factor behind the disproportionate impact predicted for women as the economic harm of the virus is expected to vary by sector.
The report states: “Occupational segregation ultimately puts women at greater risk of unemployment, enforced reduction of hours and being furloughed.
“Some of the sectors where women’s high exposure roles are concentrated will be less likely to recover after the end of the Covid-19 crisis, including accommodation, food services and retail, as these sectors will be impacted by consumer spending power, tourism and changing consumer preferences.”
The group’s analysis found a gender pay gap in all sectors considered high exposure roles for the virus in Scotland, ranging from women being paid 4.2% less than men in accommodation and food services to 27.8% less in health and social work.
The researchers said this means the pandemic is “very likely to increase the female poverty rate”.
Calling on the Scottish Government to ensure the gendered impact of the virus is a key consideration in data collection and policy making, the group has set out a series recommendations.
These include addressing occupational segregation and the “undervaluation of ‘women’s work’ including in adult social care and childcare” in measures to address coronavirus disruption to the labour market.
The report states: “The lack of consideration afforded to gender in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis resulted in the recession having a disproportionate impact on women’s employment.
“To prevent similar disproportionate impacts on women, it is vital that Scottish Government enact a gendered response to the anticipated jobs recession, with interventions specifically designed to tackle women’s labour market inequality.
“A return to the status quo after the Covid-19 crisis will merely cement women’s labour market and economic inequality.”
Anna Ritchie Allan, Close the Gap executive director, said: “The existing inequalities women face in the labour market, such as their propensity to be employed in low-paid work in service sectors, means they’ll be hardest hit by the Covid-19 job disruption.
“Covid-19 risks pushing women and their families into poverty as they grapple with disproportionate job losses, having their hours cut, and being furloughed.
“Because women do the bulk of childcare, many are also struggling to balance childcare and home learning while being expected to do their job from home.
“Many women are at breaking point, and the status quo can’t continue. It’s critical that Scotland has an economic recovery plan that recognises the disproportionate effects of job disruption on women’s employment.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that the report highlighted the need for access to affordable, flexible childcare, saying: “This report demonstrates the unprecedented impact that Covid-19 is having on our economy and labour market. We will absolutely give full consideration of the gendered impact and implications of Covid-19.
“We agree that access to affordable, flexible childcare can help provide families with the stability they need to be able to secure employment and increase their earnings in order to achieve a good standard of living, and we know that this will be as important as ever for families as we move out of lockdown.”