New Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) figures highlight how women have carried out more childcare duties overall during the COVID-19 lockdown, with women carrying out on average two-thirds more of the childcare duties per day than men. Charity The Young Women’s Trust are calling on the government to support and value young women through the crisis by following their five-point plan.
The Young Women’s Trust released their own report, “Ignored, Undervalued and Underpaid”, about how coronavirus has impacted young women’s work, finances and wellbeing. This highlights how young women were already struggling financially before the pandemic, but as they account for 36% of workers in sectors that have been shut down, they are now more susceptible to facing economic hardship.
The charity’s report unpacks the domino-effect of how coronavirus is financially hitting women, revealing how women are taking on significant amounts of unpaid childcare. Not only do women aged between 18-34 account for two thirds of those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, but young mothers are spending more time looking after children or home-schooling. This makes managing childcare whilst working from home a strain on their mental health.
But women are also performing unpaid work elsewhere as caregivers and doing unpaid work, like housework, which was “rated least enjoyable overall.” This includes tasks like cleaning and vacuuming.
The Chief Executive of The Young Women’s Trust, Sophie Walker, told Spill the Tea: ““As vital workers and caregivers, young women have been at the core of the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but they are also facing increased financial hardship and mental ill-health as a result. We are worried that women’s equality will move backwards in the long term as a result of this crisis too.”Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of The Young Women’s Trust
Women are twice as likely to be employed as key workers than men, who have been invaluable to lessening disruption caused by COVID-19. The report highlights the specific struggles for women with underlying health conditions or pregnancy, who were “forced to work despite being vulnerable to the virus.”
In the midst of the pandemic, nurses like this were speaking out against emotional toll the pandemic was putting on young nurses. She said: “You’re physically watching patients drown and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
(* The nurse wishes to remain anonymous.)
Commenting on the nation clapping on their doorsteps, she said: “We appreciate it, but why has it taken a pandemic for the nation to care? I get paid £12.35 an hour to do my job. I could go to Aldi and get paid double that.”
Last week, it was announced that the public sector would be getting a pay rise – but nurses and healthcare assistants were exempt from this. In response to this, the same nurse* said: “I don’t know what else to say. Where I work, no one is shocked about it. We just have to laugh.”
News this week that black and minority ethnic workers are overrepresented in the sectors hit worst by the coronavirus crisis would then suggest that BAME women will be hit hardest financially. Black pregnant women were also found to be eight times more likely (and Asian women four times as likely) to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus, which prompted immediate action by the NHS. But financial compensation to these groups which are hardest hit is yet to
Susanne Norris is the consumer writer for Hearst magazines UK, working across publications like Good Housekeeping, and Financially Fabulous UK. She unpacks problems specifically related to women, like how period poverty has worsened during the pandemic, along with the best ways to future-proof your finances against issues like the pension gap. She said that young women will be “particularly hit” by the pandemic “because of the industries they tend to work in.”
The Young Women’s Trust report provides examples of women unable to access government schemes and benefits and how 84% of the young women they heard from are concerned about their future finances. In our Tea Time with Holly podcast, Norris expanded on the gendered issues surrounding finance and how this could worsen during the pandemic.
“Even as we see the emergence of women wanting to take control of their finances, we then have the problem that women in particular won’t talk about their money to their close ones. We did a survey last year at Good Housekeeping, which found that 30% of women were too embarrassed to open up about their financial situation.Susanne Norris, Consumer Writer for Hearst magazines UK
Norris expanded on the potential mental health implications that could stem from women not being open about their finances to close ones. She said: “The links between mental health and money have only been explored recently. It goes without saying, if you’re in a poor situation financially then you’re going to be under a hell of a lot more stress.”
To tackle the gender inequalities surrounding the pandemic, the Young Women’s Trust entails a five-point plan, which aims to make sure no young women face financial hardship due to the crisis, as well as valuing young women’s unpaid work, protecting them at work, helping the most vulnerable young women and putting their experiences at the heart of recovery.
Sophie Walker told Spill the Tea: “Our great concern is that right now there is no end in sight for women whose equal rights and opportunities at work are being relegated to second place as their male colleagues return to the office and employment. The Government must resolve this uncertainty and unfairness if it is serious about ensuring economic growth and productivity in this new world.”Sophie Walker, Chief Executive of The Young Women’s Trust
To make sure no young woman is left behind, you can sign the Young Women’s Trust petition here, in which they are calling on the government to support and value young women through the coronavirus crisis by following their five point plan.
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