NEWS27 May 2020

IFS study highlights lockdown gender inequality among parents

Covid-19 News Trends UK

UK – Mothers are more likely to have quit or lost their job or been furloughed since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown than fathers, according to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which has warned that the gender pay gap could increase further as a result.

Motherhood in SK

In a study focusing on opposite-gender, dual-parent households with dependent children in England, the thinktank found that of parents who were in paid work prior to the lockdown, mothers are one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job, quit or been furloughed.

The report, focusing on data collected since the end of April, found that mothers in paid work in February 2020 are nine percentage points less likely to be currently undertaking paid work than fathers.

Of parents who are no longer working for pay, 16% of mothers in the study are no longer doing so because they had lost their job permanently (either due to being laid off, fired or quit), compared with 11% of fathers.

Just over a third of mothers not doing paid work ( 34%) had been furloughed, compared with 30% of fathers.

According to the research, the crisis has compounded an already unequal employment rate – in data from 2014/15, mothers were in paid work at 80% of the rate that fathers were, and this has dropped to 70%.

Women are also more likely to be spending time on household responsibilities than men, the study found, while the time they do spend on paid work is more likely to be interrupted with household responsibilities. Mothers combine paid work with other activities (almost always childcare) in 47% of their work hours, compared with 30% of fathers’ work hours.

Alison Andrew, a senior research economist at IFS, said: "Mothers are more likely than fathers to have moved out of paid work since the start of lockdown. They have reduced their working hours more than fathers even if they are still working and they experience more interruptions while they work from home than fathers, particularly due to caring for children.

"Together these factors mean that mothers now are only doing a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours that fathers are. A risk is that the lockdown leads to a further increase in the gender wage gap."

Researchers from IFS and the UCL Institute of Education designed an online survey, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The survey was fielded between 29th April and 15th May and had 3,500 respondents.

The IFS constructed a sample of respondents from the 2019 Labour Force Survey roughly equivalent to its population of interest: parents with at least one child between the ages of two and 15. The sample was reweighted by characteristics including family structure, women’s education, men’s education and prior (pre-pandemic) employment.