A new study has shown that women, young people, and the UK’s lowest-paid workers are the groups most at risk from both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 in Britain.
The consequences of closing down parts of the UK economy has affected some people more than others. Already there has been a reported rise in the number of people facing food poverty everyday, while almost 1 million people applied for universal credit (an unemployment benefit) in the first two weeks of shutdown.
And the report from the Resolution Foundation, a thinktank that works on economic issues facing low earners, identifies more details about the groups of people who have been particularly hard hit.
It reveals that 1 in 4 of the lowest-paid people in the UK are in sectors that have been forced into temporary closure during lockdown, compared with less than 1 in 20 people working in the highest-paid sectors, according to the Guardian.
Workers in shutdown sectors earn less than half the average of people able to work from home — typically earning £348 per week compared to £707 per week.
And young people are bearing the brunt of it, making up a far higher percentage of those insecure groups of workers.
The average age of people in job roles that have transitioned to home-working is 43, the report finds, while younger people are more likely to be an employee of a business or organisation that has had to close. Nearly 2 in 5 people aged 16 to 24 in employment before the pandemic worked in a sector that has since been shutdown.
For people born after the year 2000 who were working in sectors that have since been shut, the figure rises to 3 in 5.
Among the most vulnerable to economic disruption are people working in "zero-hours contract" roles — meaning those with no job security. The Resolution Foundation found that almost three-quarters of those on zero-hours contracts are either key workers or work in shutdown sectors.
Meanwhile, women are more than twice as likely than men to be among the 8.6 million people identified as key workers — those employed in essential sectors like health care, education, and food, who put their health at risk every day just by going to work, the report found.
That at-risk groups are also much more likely to be parents, the research shows — particularly mothers — as 39% of working mothers are key workers compared to 27% of the working population as a whole.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every worker in Britain in some way. But some workers are more directly affected than others - and our new report focuses on those most at risk from this health and economic crisis. (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/kCrsYvPtC4— Resolution Foundation (@resfoundation) April 28, 2020
In response to these findings, the report authors wrote: "The virus doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, but the economic impact that follows certainly does."
They added that the government should recognise the "sacrifices" being made.
Maja Gustafsson, one of those authors, told the Guardian that as the government began to consider lifting lockdown conditions, it is vital that it supports those who have been at the centre of the crisis.
"Women, young people, and the low paid are most likely to be bearing the biggest health and economic risks from the crisis, which has shone a spotlight on the vitality of work that has been undervalued and underpaid for far too long," she added.