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Coronavirus: Lockdown measures could widen gender pay gap in UK

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·2-min read
A woman wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus, waits to cross a road in London, Tuesday, May 12, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown. Advice from the government is now to wear face covering when entering enclosed spaces such as shops. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
While mothers are spending less time on paid work, they are also spending far more time on household responsibilities, according to new research. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo)

Mothers are much more likely than fathers to have lost their job since the beginning of the UK-wide coronavirus lockdown, a development that could widen the gender pay gap, according to new research.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that mothers are 1.5 times more likely to have quit or lost their job since the lockdown was imposed in March.

Because women are also more likely to have been furloughed, they are nine percentage points less likely to be currently working for pay than fathers, the research found.

The IFS warned that there was a risk that the differences could result in “larger detrimental effects” on the career progression and earnings of mothers than of fathers.

READ MORE: Firms look to sell overseas as UK takes control of trade policy

While mothers are spending less time on paid work, they are also spending far more time on household responsibilities, according to the research, which was jointly conducted with University College London.

Mothers are forced to combine paid work with other activities such as childcare during almost half of their work hours, compared with just 30% of fathers’ work hours.

“The way that couples divide paid work and household responsibilities during this crisis could have an effect that lasts long after the lockdown is lifted,” the IFS said.

Warning of a “long-run hit” to earnings prospects, the institute cautioned that the lockdown “risks reversing some of the progress that has been made on closing the gender wage gap.”

READ MORE: UK signs contracts to make billions of PPE locally

Even in families where mothers were the higher earner before the lockdown and both the mother and father are still in employment, mothers still do more childcare and the same amount of housework as their partner, according to the research.

Despite doing less childcare than mothers, fathers nevertheless have nearly doubled the time they spend on childcare during the crisis.

On average, fathers are now doing some childcare during eight hours of the day, compared with just four hours several years ago.

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