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Women and low-paid among worst hit by UK coronavirus job cuts

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 6 April 2020 13:31 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Customers are seen dining at a fish and chip shop in north London May 22, 2012. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

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Britain’s coronavirus lockdown is causing most financial pain for those who can least afford it, new research shows

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By Sonia Elks

LONDON, April 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Low-paid workers, young people and women are most likely to have lost work in Britain due to the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus lockdown, researchers said on Monday.

Before the pandemic, about one in seven British employees worked in sectors that have largely or entirely shut down, with those who were already vulnerable worst hit, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank.

"There is a remarkable concentration of younger and lower-paid workers in the sectors most affected by the current lockdown," said the author Xiaowei Xu, a senior research economist.

"Fortunately, in the short run, many will have the cushion of the incomes of parents or other household members.

"But for the longer term there must be serious worries about the effect of this crisis on the young especially and on inequality more generally."

Millions of people in Britain have lost jobs or income as a nationwide lockdown forces many non-essential businesses including restaurants, cultural venues and non-food shops to close their doors.

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People who were already scraping by on low wages were about seven times more likely than high earners to have worked in one of the sectors worst hit, according to the think tank's analysis of official labour force survey data.

Women aged under 25 were among those worst affected, with more than one in three previously employed in sectors that have largely or totally shut down.

Overall, young workers were more than twice as likely to be impacted by coronavirus-linked shutdowns, while women of all ages were about a third more likely to be affected than men.

The data comes after Britain saw a huge spike in the number of people applying for the main Universal Credit state benefits in the first two weeks of the lockdown and food banks warned they were preparing for a surge in demand.

The impact of job losses for many young and low-waged workers could be cushioned as they are more likely to live with parents or other household members with higher earnings who may be able to support them, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.

The Young Women's Trust, a charity, said it was unsurprising that job losses were having a disproportionately large impact on young women in low-paid work.

"Young women are let down by an education system that still funnels them into the jobs society pays and values less; they are let down by sexist workplaces and unfair parenting policies," said its chief executive Sophie Walker.

She called for action including improvements to the benefits system and extra support for workers on insecure contracts.


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(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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