Women have benefitted from an unprecedented package of support introduced since March 2020 to help businesses and individuals.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) continues through to the end of September, with employees receiving 80% of their salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 per month. Across the UK, where it was possible to link the data, 1.72 million women were on furlough at 30 April 2021 compared with 1.67 million men.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) also continues until September 2021. The fifth and final grant will include a turnover test in order to ensure that the most generous support - a grant worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, up to £7,500 - is targeted at those who need it the most. As of 6 June 2021, the scheme has received over 2.6 million claims from self-employed women across the four rounds of grant.
To continue to support people on low incomes during the pandemic, the Government has extended the temporary £20 per week uplift to the Universal Credit (UC) standard allowance to the end of September, with similar support for eligible Working Tax Credit (WTC) claimants. The majority of Universal Credit claimants are women: 53% in April 2021.
The increase to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit in cash terms in 2021-22 has also been maintained, an increase which was worth an extra £600 on average in 2020-21 for over 1.5 million households.
As there is a higher proportion of single women (52%) claiming housing support in the private rental sector with a shortfall than single men (18%) or couples (30%), increasing LHA rates to the 30th percentile of rates in the market, is more likely to benefit single women than single men.
While the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the labour market are still emerging, there has been a larger fall in employment among men compared to women so far. Since December-February quarter 2020, the female employment rate has fallen by 0.5 percentage points, while the male employment rate has fallen by 2.4 percentage points. This is in contrast to other G7 countries: between Q4 2019 and Q4 2020 Canada has seen a larger fall in the female employment rate, and France, Italy, Japan and the US have seen relatively similar falls for both men and women (within 0.2 percentage points).
The gender pay gap is also at its lowest level since records began, falling to a record low of 15.5% in April 2020, from 17.4% last year. For full-time employees, the gap is also at a record low of 7.4% in April 2020, down from 9.0% in April 2019. The Office for National Statistics found that evidence from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) suggests that coronavirus factors did not have a notable impact on the gender pay gap in 2020.