Does the pandemic affect everyone equally? A report from the Resolution Foundation highlights that young people, women and low-paid workers face additional risks.
The COVID-19 crisis is one felt by everyone to some degree, and it is that sense of community that many rely upon in these uncertain times.
The Resolution Foundation has produced a report that highlights the inequalities in the distribution of health and economic risks across working groups.
The report categorises workers into four groups experiencing varying degrees of impact:
Key Workers – those needed to keep the country running, such as the army and emergency services, some infrastructure (including gas and electric workers) and supermarket staff. This category is most exposed to health risk as they continue to serve the public.
Shut-down sector workers – those that provide non-essential services such as non-food retail, restaurants and hotels, arts and leisure services. This category holds the highest economic risks as businesses furlough staff and make redundancies.
Able to work from home – those whose jobs can be done remotely, mainly digitally but not exclusively. This is the most protected group, the least exposed to the public and still receiving full pay.
Unable to work from Home – those who cannot complete their jobs at home and whose sector has not been closed, such as the self-employed. This group is a risk dilemma group, with either health risks in continuing to work or economic risks in ceasing that work.
Who is most at risk?
The paper acknowledges those at most risk to be key workers and those that are employed within businesses which have had to close down under social distancing measures.
46% of the UK’s labour workforce are either risking their health or facing economic problems, and amongst that 46%, low-paid workers, women and 16-24 year olds stand out.
Low-income earnings were higher in 2004/2005, and as such those in this income bracket are facing a double risk to their health and financial situation. This is because low-paid workers are 2 times more likely to be key workers and exposed to Covid-19. Low-paid workers are also 2.4 times more likely to be employed in a sector that has been shut down, increasing the risk to living standards as they are furloughed (receiving 80% pay) or lose their job all together. Those in this sector are amongst the lowest paid and are 6 times more likely to be in the bottom 10% of earners. The average wage of those able to work from home is twice as high. These households are exposed and feel the effects of reduced hours or pay, with increased risk to their housing security and basic needs.
Covid-19 presents no more of a risk to women than to men, but given that double the amount of women (36%) are key workers than men the health risks are not evenly distributed. This uneven exposure to the impacts of Covid-19 can be seen across all four categories of workers. Employed women are more likely to be employed within sectors shut down, with those able to work from home expected to burden childcare. Women working within the ‘unable to work from home’ category are also at high risk of a pay reduction.
16-24 year olds
Young people are twice as likely to be employed within the shut-down sectors category, around 2.9 million young people. 4 in 10 of these earn less than the real living wage. Only 22% of young people are able to work from home. Many young people will be school leavers and graduates this summer, with other learners unsure of when schools, colleges and universities will be open again (and what this may look like). As a result of this, young people are disproportionately affected in both their learning outcomes and future job prospects.
Those born in the 00s will be some of the most affected by the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in the long run as evidence tells us that a particularly damaging effect of a recession are the scars left on young people entering a weak labour market. With little to replace the jobs that would have been created and diminishing prospects of progression or a pay rise as businesses seek to survive. Unemployment is about fewer people entering work, not just people losing jobs. A large cohort of young people finishing education this summer will be joining the queue for work.
The report implores the Government to recognise the financial challenges and personal sacrifices that some groups of workers are making will be much more than others. They must recognise this moving forward as response and recovery plans for the UK and its economy are put in place.
Youth Employment UK Reflections
We recognise the challenges that many people are facing in this situation and the suggested impacts Covid-19 will have on the labour market are worrying at best.
The data we are starting to see concerning the most impacted groups, and particularly young people has led us to jointly found the Youth Employment Group alongside Impetus, The Princes Trust, The Youth Futures Foundation and the Institute of Employment Studies. The Youth Employment Group actively focuses on how Covid-19 will affect young people’s employment opportunities.