Coronavirus: women, the young and low-paid workers are worst hit

28 April 2020

New report reveals the hardest hit by the outbreak


Young people and low-paid workers face the biggest economic hit from coronavirus, while women have the highest health risk, according to a new study.

The Resolution Foundation think tank today says there are 6.3 million workers at the highest risk of being made redundant or furloughed, and many of them are young and already low-paid.

These workers are employed in hospitality, non-food and pharmaceutical retail, arts, travel and leisure, the sectors most affected by the coronavirus lockdown.

The foundation's Risky Business report says employees in these industries are among the lowest paid on average, and those aged 16-24 are twice as likely to work in these sectors than the rest of the population.

Typical pay for workers in shutdown sectors is £348 a week. Those employed in jobs that can be done from home earn £707 a week on average.

The report says there are 8.6 million key workers, with four million in healthcare alone, as well as education, food and pharmaceutical retail.

These workers are likely to be more exposed to the health risks from coronavirus than others because they work in jobs where social distancing is often impossible.

Women are disproportionately affected by coronavirus because they are twice as likely to be key workers than men are.

Around 36% of working age women are key workers compared to 18% of men.

Working mothers are at even greater risk. Around 39% of working mothers were key workers before the crisis began.

This is despite working mothers only making up 27% of the employed people in the UK. 

Economic impact across generations

The coronavirus economic crisis is likely to harm different generations in varying ways just as the 2008 financial crash did, according to the report.

Older millennials (those born in the late 1980s) were hardest hit by the aftermath of the last recession, and younger millennials (born in the late 1990s) are likely to find themselves hardest hit by the current crisis.

But three in five of those born in the early 1980s also have children under the age of nine.

This means that those most likely to be facing additional pressures from school closures are those who suffered the biggest pay squeeze after the last crisis.

Maja Gustafsson, Researcher at the Resolution Foundation, says: “The current crisis has affected almost every worker across the country – from having to work from home to risking infection at work or losing your livelihood altogether.

“But women, young people and the low paid are most likely to bearing the biggest health and economic risks from the crisis, which has shone a spotlight on the vitality of work that has been under-valued and under-paid for far too long."

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