Pandemic made existing inequalities worse, says Women and Equalities Committee

The Women and Equalities Committee has published a report on Covid-19 and the gendered economic impact it has had - for many women it has made existing equality problems worse.Caroline Nokes MP

The report found that the economic impact of Covid-19 has affected men and women differently. The reason for this is because of existing gendered economic inequalities, the over-representation of women in certain jobs and the actions the Government has taken.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “We know the childcare sector has been underfunded for years. Since the pandemic started to affect the sector in the first national lockdown, we have been calling for more support for childcare providers.

“Our recent survey showed that 58% of nursery businesses were not confident they would survive until Easter. The Chancellor needs to be aware that any plan for jobs needs a plan for childcare. It is essential to enable parents to work or study, but also to give all children early education which is vital for their future prospects. Giving all children access to high quality early education reduces the attainment gap and improves all their life chances.

“More than one in nine nursery workers are women, mostly carrying out their vital roles without employers getting the funding they need to be able to properly recognise their contribution. It’s time this Government took responsibility for that and reviewed funding for “free” childcare places so it takes account of rising operational costs.”

Key recommendations include: 
  • Review childcare provision to provide support for working parents and those who are job seeking or retraining
  • Maintain increases in support, including the £20 increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance. (Department for Work and Pensions)
  • Review the adequacy of and eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay. Women are over represented among those who are not eligible.

Committee Chair Caroline Nokes said: "As the pandemic struck, the Government had to act quickly to protect jobs and adapt welfare benefits.

"These have provided a vital safety net for millions of people. But it overlooked the labour market and caring inequalities faced by women.

"These are not a mystery, they are specific and well understood. And yet the Government has repeatedly failed to consider them.

"This passive approach to gender equality is not enough. And for many women it has made existing equality problems worse: in the support to self-employed people, to pregnant women and new mothers, to the professional childcare sector, and for women claiming benefits. And it risks doing the same in its plans for economic recovery.

"Our report sets out a package of twenty recommendations for change and a timescale. Taken together, these will go a long way towards tackling the problems and creating the more equal future that so many women—and men—want to see.

"The Government should seize this opportunity."

Read more here.