An Unequal Burden: New briefing outlines how Covid-19 has affected women’s employment, financial security and unpaid work.

Women’s inequality has been exacerbated by the social, economic and labour market implications of the Covid-19 crisis. However, the lack of gender-sensitive, sex-disaggregated data created barriers to achieving a full understanding of women’s experiences of the pandemic. In particular, intersectional data relating to the experiences of disabled and Black and minority (BME) women in Scotland during the crisis is almost entirely lacking.

Recognising these critical data gaps, Close the Gap joined with other women’s organisations across UK including Engender, the UK Women’s Budget Group, the Fawcett Society, Women’s Equality Network Wales and the Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group in a polling project funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust to collect quantitative survey data on the impact of Covid-19 on women.

As part of the project, three rounds of polling were conducted from November 2020 to July 2021. Alongside Engender, we published briefings looking at the Scottish-level findings across the experiences of women with caring responsibilities; women’s wellbeing, mental health and financial security; and the impact of the pandemic on young women.

This week, Close the Gap has published a new briefing collating the project findings in the realm of employment, training, skills and poverty. Our headline findings include:

  • Just over one-third of young women (35%) had their furloughed salary topped-up by their employer, compared to over half of young men (53%)
  • Around one-fifth of BME women (21%) and disabled women (19%) felt they were unfairly chosen for furlough as a result of their race, sex, age, disability or health condition. By contrast, only 1% of non-disabled women, and 1% of white women felt unfairly chosen for furlough.
  • Women were more than twice likely as men to be worried about how they will pay their rent or mortgage in February 2021 (24% women compared to 10% men).
  • In July 2021, more than two-thirds (37%) of young disabled women were not confident that they would have enough money for the next 12 months, compared to just over a quarter (27%) of non-disabled young women and 18% of non-disabled men.

This survey data provided additional evidence to illuminate how the economic and labour market consequences of the pandemic were impacting women’s financial security, wellbeing and experience of employment.

UN Women estimates that the pandemic risks setting women’s equality back 25 years. In line with this analysis, our polling data highlights that the pandemic has exacerbated gender inequality in a range of ways, particularly around women’s poverty and the unequal distribution of caring responsibilities.

In highlighting the specific experiences of BME women, disabled women and young women, the findings once again underscore the importance of gathering and utilising intersectional gender-sensitive sex-disaggregated data in policymaking.

The lack of disaggregated data has been compounded by a failure to mainstream gender equality considerations into policy and programmes developed in response to the crisis. This is despite gender mainstreaming being a legal requirement of the public sector equality duty.

As we emerge from Covid-19, it is vital that Scottish Government and its delivery agencies embed gender mainstreaming approaches and improve the range of intersectional gender-disaggregated data used in the labour market, skills and anti-poverty policymaking. Without such action, policymaking will continue to cement women’s economic and labour market inequality.

You can read the full briefing here.

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