UK study will evaluate the actual pressures of COVID on working-class women
The impact of COVID-19 on working-class women in the UK will be explored by a team of researchers
from the University of Warwick, the University of Nottingham and the Women’s Business Group during a
new year-long study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, a part of UKRI.
Using data from the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) flagship UK Household
Longitudinal Study Professor Clare Lyonette from Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER)
and Professor Tracey Warren from the Nottingham University Business School will work with the
Women's Budget Group to investigate the ways in which working class women are carrying a double
burden of work and family responsibility during the pandemic, and identify policies needed to support
In order to create a detailed picture of how working-class women are responding in real-time to the
various pressures imposed by the virus, and how this is affecting their lives, new questions have been
added to the study, including whether women have given unpaid support to family and friends living apart
and in what form; what additional difficulties are being faced by working class women during the
pandemic in terms of financial hardship and health-related risks, work intensification or work insecurity;
and the difficulties of domestic work and care during lockdown.
Professor Clare Lyonette said: “For some women, like cleaners and non-essential shop workers, the
pandemic has put jobs in danger and cuts hours, with stark financial ramifications. For others in close
contact with customers, clients and patients, such as those undertaking personal care in care homes and
hospitals without full PPE, it brings life-threatening health risks. We aim to identify the problems for – and
differences among – working class women, generated by the pandemic.”
Dr Tracey Warren, Professor of Sociology, said: “We know that working-class women already worked
tirelessly through their ‘double-burden’ of labor at paid employment then reception before coronavirus.
Now we can get a very clear picture of the whole of the UK and how the pandemic has affected women.
The pandemic has created job loss, work instability, financial hardship and great insecurity. There has
been time squeeze and work intensification for some, a desperate search for new jobs for others,
alongside more unpaid care with school and nursery closures. If they are unable to manage the existing
and additional pressures placed upon them, workplaces, child and elder care will all be severely
Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said “We have already started to see
that working-class women are being hit particularly hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, with job losses for
some and increased hours and pressure for others, while unpaid work increases. As the furlough scheme
ends and evictions re-start the situation is likely to get much worse. This important research will provide
much needed evidence of the extent of these impacts, which the Women’s Budget Group will use to
inform its work to influence the Government response.”
The research, funded by ESRC, as part of UKRI, will explore the extent to which women’s domestic and
caring roles faced pressure under lockdown rules, in areas such as difficulties in grocery shopping, and
the ramifications of lockdown for families in financial hardship, with restricted inside and outside space,
and limited access to the internet and computing facilities for home-working and home-schooling.
The Women’s Budget Group will help to disseminate early findings and urgent policy solutions to
employers, unions, government, key charities and lobby groups this year to enable women to continue
their critical work.