Lockdown could increase gender pay gap, study shows

27 May 2020

Women more likely to take on childcare duties and housework during the lockdown

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Lockdown could increase the gender pay gap and do lasting harm to the careers of mothers once it is lifted, according to new research.

Mothers are more likely to have been affected by school closures, job losses and furloughing than fathers because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says.

The shift to working from home has affected how parents spend their time and how mothers and fathers divide responsibilities for paid work, housework and childcare.

The IFS interviewed 3,500 households and found that women are taking on more housework and childcare than men even if they have the same working arrangements.

Damage to careers

In lockdown, mothers in two-parent households are doing on average a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers, whereas before they did around 60%.

The IFS says this sharp reduction in the time that mothers are spending dedicated to paid work risks lasting harm to their careers when the lockdown ends.

Mothers are also more likely than fathers to have left paid work since February, the IFS says.

The study found that mothers are 47% more likely than fathers to have permanently lost their job or quit since February.

Mothers are also 23% more likely than fathers to have lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently and 14% more likely to have been furloughed.

Gender pay gap

Mothers are more likely to be interrupted during the day and are spending less time on work as a result.

Mums are looking after children during an average of 10.3 hours a day (2.3 hours more than fathers) and are doing 1.7 more hours of housework than fathers.

Mothers are also far more likely to be interrupted during paid working hours than fathers. Almost half (47%) of maternal hours spent doing paid work are split between that and other activities such as childcare, compared with under one-third (30%) of fathers.

These gender differences in interruptions and multitasking risk further increasing the gender wage gap among parents, the IFS says.

Even in families where the mother was the highest earner before the lockdown, mothers are still doing more childcare and the same amount of housework as their husbands.

Lucy Kraftman, a research economist at the IFS, says: "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."

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