Pandemic set to cause ‘shecession’ as Covid-19 hampers gender equality at work
The pandemic is causing a “shecession”, as women’s economic empowerment is expected to decline for the first time in almost a decade, according to PwC’s latest Women in Work Index.
For the past nine years, all countries across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have made consistent gains towards progress for women in work.
However, PwC’s latest index, which studied a range of factors including the gender pay gap and female unemployment, showed progress for women in work is expected to fall more than two per cent between 2019 and 2021.
It warned that “progress towards gender equality needs to be twice as fast as its historical rate” in order to undo the damage caused by Covid-19 to women in work by 2030.
“For businesses in particular, it’s paramount that gender pay gap reporting is prioritised, with targeted action plans put in place as businesses focus on building back better and fairer,” said Laura Hinton, PwC’s chief people officer.
Gender pay gap reporting, which has been compulsory for companies in the UK with 250 or more employees since 2017, means firms must report the salary difference between male and female workers. It was suspended at the outbreak of the pandemic and will not restart until October this year.
The report warned that Britain will likely be particularly impacted by the pandemic, due to its hospitality-heavy economy that is weighted towards female employees.
“In the UK, women were around a third more likely to work in a sector that was completely shut down during the first national lockdown than men, with accommodation and food services and arts, entertainment and recreation among the most impacted sectors,” said Larice Stielow, senior economist at PwC.
“Losing women from the workforce not only reverses progress towards gender equality, it also affects economic growth,” Stielow added. “Although jobs will return when economies bounce back, they will not necessarily be the same jobs.”
The UK currently lags behind other OECD countries in the share of female employees in full-time employment, according to the PwC index. In 2019, only 64 per cent of women in work were in full-time employment in Britain, compared to 89 per cent of men.
London made a marginal increase last year to sit in 10th place in the UK’s regional ranking of women in work. The capital currently has the highest female full-time employment rate in the UK at 68 per cent, but still has a low female labour force participation rate.