Women are shouldering the biggest burdens of the economic and social fallout from the pandemic

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Every one of us faces an immense challenge during the dark days of this new winter lockdown as coronavirus ravages the UK.

Yesterday further 1,564 people died of coronavirus – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.

While the Department of Health has officially recorded 84,767 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, analysis of official data shows more than 100,000 deaths involving  coronavirus  have now occurred in the UK.

England is now in its third national lockdown, with severe restrictions also imposed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The first lockdown saw the restrictions bring carry a disproportionate weight for women.

So much so, UN Women has suggested Covid-19 could put gender equality back as much as 25 years.

And this wave has shown women being hit even harder – even physically as figures show they are more likely to die this time compared to the first wave.

So, from the risk of falling victim to domestic abuse, to bearing the brunt of childcare duties, here are 11 ways women feel the impact more greatly…

Childcare

This overwhelmingly became women’s work when the grip of lockdown first tightened.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show they carried out two thirds of it.

When women managed to squeeze in paid work, for 47 per cent of those working hours they juggled childcare demands. Fathers only juggled for 30 per cent of the time.

There are fears the pattern could stick. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia says this care inequality brings a “real risk of reverting to 1950s gender stereotypes.”

Domestic chores

Women are picking up the lion's share (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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As with childcare, when it came to the washing and cleaning we generated at home, it was women who picked up the lion’s share.

Research from the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies at University College London found during April and May 2020, it was women who undertook 64 per cent of housework.

Furlough and unemployment

Over half of those on the furlough scheme between March-August 2020 were women – around 133,000 more women than men.

This may have been requested due to unequal childcare demands, or because more Covid unstable industries, like hospitality, are dominated by women.

Mothers have been struggling to juggle childcare and working from home – and many have lost their jobs altogether (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Mothers were also one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since the first lockdown began.

The TUC found one in six working mums had to reduce their hours due to childcare commitments.

Working class women were most impacted, says a study by the universities of Nottingham and Warwick.

Almost half did no hours of work in April. By June fewer than half of all women in work were still working full-time hours.

Finances

Before the pandemic, women, especially those who are low-paid, disabled or from BAME groups, were more likely than men to be in debt – 61 per cent of those falling into debt to purchase simple necessities are women.

No wonder then, 30 per cent of women report being negatively impacted financially by the pandemic compared with 26 per cent of men.

Research by charity Turn2us shows the mean gender pay gap has widened by £62 a month, prompting fears a rebalance will be set back. In fact, employers were allowed to suspend reporting on pay gap progress in 2019/20.

Impact to maternity pay also emerged, when women discovered taking unpaid leave to cover childcare meant they had not worked enough hours to qualify.

Domestic abuse

Isolation can be exploited by abusers (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/EyeEm)

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During the first lockdown calls to helplines rose by 49 per cent, mainly from women trapped with a violent partner.

Research by Counting Dead Women estimated at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children occurred in the first three weeks.

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of charity Refuge said: “Isolation is often used as a tool to abuse.”

Mental health

It’s been found 61 per cent of women are finding it difficult to stay positive, compared to 47 per cent of men.

Extra childcare on top of work are one driver, with campaigners calling for a four-day working week to help.

“ Coronavirus has shown us that the economy is not working but for women, the economy has never really worked and this pandemic has highlighted the stark impact it is having on women’s mental health,” says Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of Women’s Budget Group.

Women also dominate the frontline, especially in healthcare, seeing the worst of the virus.

Frontline risks

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Working from home isn’t an option for many women.

Mums are more likely to be key workers than dads or non-parents, and healthcare workers are generally women. In fact, 77 per cent of our hailed NHS heroes are women.

Of them, just 46 per cent are in senior management roles, so more likely to be public facing.

Personal safety

With gyms shut, outdoor exercise is invaluable. But for women, exercising publicly often comes with harassment.

Charity Plan International and campaign group Our Streets Now, found a fifth of young women and girls aged between 14-21 experienced being catcalled, followed, groped, flashed or upskirted during last spring’s lockdown.

With darker evenings now, an after work run can feel a risk not worth taking for many women.

Pregnancy

Many pregnant women faced worrying scans and even labour alone, with some Trusts suspending home births and blocking men from wards.

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists also reported last year’s lockdown equalled a care decline.

Of obstetric units surveyed, 70 per cent revealed a reduction in antenatal appointments, and 56 per cent a reduction in postnatal.

Worryingly, less women coming forward with emergency antenatal presentations was reported by 86 per cent of units.

Between April and June, there was a rise in stillbirths.

Cancer care

Vital treatments are being missed (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Charity Breast Cancer Now has warned more than half a million women missed vital breast screenings due to the halt in services last year because of the pandemic.

They estimate around 8,600 women have undetected breast cancer as a result.

Alcohol risks

Problem drinking is spiralling (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images/Tetra images RF)

Boozing increased more among women than men during the last lockdown.

Psychological distress drove all groups to reach for the bottle – Drinkaware estimated 26 per cent drank more – but the campaign group reports 14 per cent of women said they were drinking over 14 units per week.

Darker winter days mean experts predict drinking could spiral further this lockdown.