After a year of national and regional lockdowns, with changes to hours of work, how and where we work, and long periods of homeschooling and additional care responsibilities, the widespread vaccination programme in the UK has led to a cautious easing of restrictions and a time to re-assess the immediate and longer-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, we explore the impact of the pandemic on the paid and unpaid work of working class women, compared with other workers.
Covid-19 has highlighted the essential work of working class women, which includes for many the increased health risks of working in close contact with others and travelling on public transport. For others, periods of furlough and longer-term work instability have increased.
Optimistic assessments of a greater proportion of both men and women ‘working from home’ during the pandemic suggested a narrowing of gender inequalities within the home, with men spending more time with children and doing more domestic work. Here, we explore what has happened over the course of the pandemic by examining the division of domestic labour and childcare, the impact of Covid on paid work (furloughing, keyworking, reduced working hours and job insecurity, etc.), changes to individual and household finances, and finally the impact on psychological wellbeing.
We draw on new survey data on the impact of COVID-19 on women and men in the UK. In 2020, participants in the ‘UK Household Longitudinal Study’ were invited to take part in new monthly surveys and 17,450 participants filled in a first-wave questionnaire in April. Our study looks at employed women and men, and class variation in their experiences, over time. The project ‘Carrying the work burden of the Covid-19 pandemic: working class women in the UK’ is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19 (Project ES/V009400/1), and is in partnership with the Women’s Budget Group: