With thanks to Alison Andrew and the joint work with Sarah Cattan, Monica Costa Dias, Christine Farquharson, Lucy Kraftman, Sonya Krutikova, Angus Phimister and Almudena Sevilla, the NU Women Annual Lecture last month explored ‘The Gendered Division of Paid and Domestic Work Under Lockdown’.
Alison presented survey data that illustrated how parents in England have been sharing paid and domestic work during lockdown and examined women’s careers in a post-pandemic world. This data offered important insights not only into employment relations in the UK but to the potential solutions that could be used to reduce the division and encourage gender equality.
Alison outlined that women earned 44% less than men in 2019. Even when considering women from a background of higher education the earning gap only improved to 46%, leaving a staggeringly large amount of gender inequality when it came to the questions of paid work and domestic labour before the pandemic. Even when looking at data from women taking time off around childbirth, the short term breaks or part time employment evidenced “scarring” effects on women’s career progression.
Outlining the statistical foundations of gender inequality before going into the pandemic, Alison’s data created expectations that COVID-19 would impact both sides of the labour market and that this might affect men and women differently. This played out in many places of work (especially leisure and hospitality) were forced to close or scale back this meant that there were changes in demand and treatment of employees such as the furlough scheme.
However, it was shown through the lecture that these losses were not evenly distributed because women, especially women in BAME communities, were over or underrepresented in some sectors such as the NHS. Not only did the pandemic pressure accumulate in work life but when additional need for child and older relative care became a priority, home life forced gender norms and habits to rise to the surface, encouraging work division and interruptions further.
Through Alison’s presented data, the legacy of the crisis taught us is that the solutions for sharing paid and domestic work remains open. For example, fathers’ involvement in day-to-day childcare may increase as a result of short-term changes and perhaps through changes in gender norms or attitudes of employers. Moreover, in a number of firms they have started to accommodate flexible schedules and homeworking environments. Nonetheless, the pandemic has been heterogenous in how its effected different households; in some cases, there has been a transition towards a traditional split of domestic and paid work, but there is evidence of an inverse variation too.
You can view the full lecture below: