Women and lower-paid hit hardest by home working

'Right' kind of jobs see higher productivity as workforce divide widens, according to research

Women and lower paid workers suffered the biggest blow to productivity from the national lockdown, according to new research.

The findings from the Centre for Economic Policy Research underline the economic and social damage wrought by the pandemic and the resultant set-back to the Government’s “levelling up” agenda

The researchers said that women and lower-income earners – more concentrated in the sectors where working from home is difficult – “report lower productivity at home on average”. 

In contrast the sectors showing the biggest productivity increases included more male-dominated jobs in IT and finance sectors, requiring less face-to-face interaction.

“Those in the “right” occupations and with high incomes, report higher productivities [sic] than previously,” academics from the University of Essex and the University of Birmingham said.

The research, based on Office for National Statistics survey data, also found a link between lower productivity and mental health, as women shouldered much of the childcare burden when schools were closed

“Those who state they get much less done at home report declines in wellbeing comparable to the effect of an unemployment shock,” the study said.

The CEPR study adds to the welter of research highlighting the uneven impact of the pandemic across genders and social groups this year. 

The Resolution Foundation says women outnumber men by more than two to one in leisure and travel roles most hard hit by closures, and by almost as much in retail and customer services jobs. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has also shown that women are around a third more likely to work in affected sectors than men.

Previous recessions have hit men far more sharply than women in the labour market but in the Covid-19 slump women are more likely to be furloughed than men. Firms have also shed more part-time staff in the crisis, who are far more likely to be female.

Jobs figures this week showed a record 20m increase in average weekly hours worked between June and August but this was mainly driven by men, who saw their hours jump by 17.2m.