The impact of COVID-19 on working-class women in the UK will be explored by a team of researchers from the University of Warwick, the University of Nottingham and the Women’s Business Group in a new year-long study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UKRI.
Using data from the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) flagship UK Household Longitudinal Study Professor Clare Lyonette from Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) and Professor Tracey Warren from the Nottingham University Business School will work with the Women’s Budget Group to investigate the ways in which working class women are carrying a double burden of work and family responsibility during the pandemic, and identify policies needed to support them.
In order to create a detailed picture of how working-class women are responding in real-time to the various pressures imposed by the virus, and how this is affecting their lives, new questions have been added to the study, including whether women have given unpaid support to family and friends living apart and in what form; what additional difficulties are being faced by working class women during the pandemic in terms of financial hardship and health-related risks, work intensification or work insecurity; and the difficulties of domestic work and care during lockdown.
Professor Clare Lyonette said: “For some women, such as cleaners and non-essential shop workers, the pandemic has put jobs at risk and cuts hours, with stark financial ramifications. For others in close contact with customers, clients and patients, such as those undertaking personal care in care homes and hospitals without full PPE, it brings life-threatening health risks. We aim to identify the problems for – and differences among – working class women, generated by the pandemic.”
Dr Tracey Warren, Professor of Sociology, said: “We know that working-class women already worked tirelessly through their ‘double-burden’ of work at paid employment and then at home before coronavirus. Now we can get a very clear picture of the whole of the UK and how the pandemic has affected women. The pandemic has created job loss, work instability, financial hardship and great insecurity. There has been time squeeze and work intensification for some, a desperate search for new jobs for others, alongside more unpaid care with school and nursery closures. If they are unable to manage the existing and additional pressures placed upon them, workplaces, child and elder care will all be severely affected.”
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said “We have already started to see that working-class women are being hit particularly hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, with job losses for some and increased hours and pressure for others, while unpaid work increases. As the furlough scheme ends and evictions re-start the situation is likely to get much worse. This important research will provide much needed evidence of the extent of these impacts, which the Women’s Budget Group will use to inform its work to influence the Government response.”
The research, funded by ESRC, as part of UKRI, will explore the extent to which women’s domestic and caring roles faced pressure under lockdown rules, in areas such as difficulties in grocery shopping, and the ramifications of lockdown for families in financial hardship, with restricted inside and outside space, and limited access to the internet and computing facilities for home-working and home-schooling.
The Women’s Budget Group will help to disseminate early findings and urgent policy solutions to employers, unions, government, key charities and lobby groups this year to enable women to continue their critical work.