Women worse off on furlough scheme, study finds

During the pandemic female are more likely to have taken a pay cut, and do more of the housework tha

A new study has explored women's experience of the furlough scheme. - Credit: Getty Images

A new study has highlighted how the government's furlough scheme unfairly impacts women, but one East Anglian academic says the pandemic's impact has spread beyond the job market.

The analysis from King's College London found that women were more likely to furloughed for longer periods, felt less secure in their job while furloughed, and were more likely to have money worries while on furlough.

The study is based on data from between April and July last year and found that 31% of women who had been furloughed at any point had worked zero hours since March, compare to 20% of furloughed men.

It also found that women were 12% more likely to say they had a greater than one in five chance of struggling to pay their usual bills

Dr Rose Cook, senior research fellow at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: “The furlough scheme has undoubtedly prevented mass job losses. However, our results suggest that in 2020, once furloughed, women were disproportionately furloughed for longer periods, and had worse perceived job and financial security than their male peers.” 

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Dr Laura Harvey, a lecturer in economic inequality at the University of East Anglia, said she was not surprised by the study's findings.

"We know the Covid crisis has impacted women more than men in many different arenas," she said. "Not just in terms of the labour market, but also in terms of home dynamics.

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"We're seeing that it's women who are picking up the biggest share of looking after children and looking after the household, and these kind of things."

Dr Harvey said that women are more likely to work part-time and bosses may be inclined to bring back full-time workers first, meaning women remained on the furlough scheme for longer.

"I think the government had an incredibly difficult challenge in the pandemic.

"The furlough scheme has been a huge safety net for a lot of people, but I think it needed to consider the types of workers and their circumstances as a whole.

"I think this crisis has also been an opportunity to make actual meaningful changes in the labour market.

"If it has taught us anything it is that flexible working works, and that flexibility is incredibly important for women.

"It is a huge determinant in whether or not women are able to return to the job market after having children." 

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