‘Mums 47% more likely to have lost their jobs in lockdown’

Mums are significantly more likely to lose their jobs, reduce their hours and have their work interrupted during lockdown, but dads are doing more domestic work than in the past, says new report.

smart mum in a suit on her mobile with laptop and baby on lap


Mums are significantly more likely than dads to have lost their jobs or quit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

Researchers from Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education surveyed  3,500 families with two opposite-gender parents to look at how they are sharing paid work and domestic responsibilities.

It found that mothers are 23% more likely than fathers to have lost their jobs (temporarily or permanently) during the current crisis. Of those who were in paid work prior to the lockdown, mothers are 47% more likely than fathers to have permanently lost their job or quit, and they are 14% more likely to have been furloughed. In all, among those working in February 2020, mothers are now 9 percentage points less likely to still be in paid work than fathers.

Mothers who are still doing paid work have also reduced their paid working hours substantially and by more than fathers. Prior to the crisis, working mothers did paid work in 6.3 hours of a weekday on average; this has fallen by over one-fifth to 4.9 hours, says the report. Working fathers’ hours have also fallen, but by proportionally less, from 8.6 hours before the crisis to 7.2 hours now.

The report also finds mothers are also far more likely to be interrupted during paid working hours than fathers. Almost half (47%) of mothers’ hours spent doing paid work are split between that and other activities such as childcare, compared with under one-third (30%) of fathers’ paid working hours.

In families where the father has lost his job while the mother kept hers, men and women still split housework and childcare responsibilities fairly equally. In all other types of households, mothers spend substantially more time on domestic responsibilities.

The survey reveals the extent to which mothers have picked up the bulk of the time spent on new responsibilities for childcare and housework: they are looking after children during an average of 10.3 hours of the day (2.3 hours more than fathers), and are doing housework during 1.7 more hours than fathers.

However, the survey shows fathers have also increased the time they spend on housework and childcare: fathers are, on average, now doing childcare during nearly twice as many hours as in 2014–15. This means that fathers are now taking on a greater share of household responsibilities than they were before the crisis, says the report.

Lucy Kraftman, a Research Economist at IFS, said: “Mothers are doing, on average, more childcare and more housework than fathers who have the same work arrangements, be that not working, working from home or working outside the home. The only set of households where we see mothers and fathers sharing childcare and housework equally are those in which both parents were previously working but the father has now stopped working for pay while the mother is still in paid work. However, mothers in these households are doing paid work during an average of five hours a day in addition to doing the same amount of domestic work as their partner. The vast increase in the amount of childcare that mothers are doing under lockdown, which many are juggling alongside paid work, is likely to put a strain on their well-being.”

The researchers were divided on the impact of the changes. Alison Andrew, a Senior Research Economist at IFS, said the results could signal an increase in the gender pay gap in the long term, but Sonya Krutikova, a Deputy Research Director at IFS, said the fact dads are doing more of the domestic work “could serve as an impetus for a more equal sharing of childcare and housework between mothers and fathers after lockdown ends”.

Meanwhile, a new report by Young Women’s Trust reveals that one in five young women in the UK has lost work because of the pandemic. Women are overrepresented in hospitality, leisure, tourism and the arts – industries where thousands of workers have been furloughed or laid off due to the public health emergency.

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