Women fighting Covid-19 on poverty pay


The majority of occupations with the highest exposure to contracting Covid-19 are key workers, 77 percent of whom are women, according to the ‘Jobs at Risk Index‘ produced by Autonomy, a progressive think tank.

Autonomy, an independent think tank that analysis the changing reality of work scrutinised data on which occupations had the highest risk factor to the coronavirus, and what kind of people worked in those jobs.

It found that 22 of the 28 occupations with the highest risk factor were key workers such as nurses, pharmacists and care workers.


More than three-quarters (77 percent) of the workforce considered to be at high-risk were women. Healthcare workers are most at risk, with women comprising 89 percent of nurses, 71 percent of pharmacists, 80 percent of medical radiographers, 100 percent of midwives, and 86 percent of senior care workers.

Of the full-time workers working high-risk jobs and paid poverty wages – where income is less than two-thirds of the UK median wage – 98 percent are women. The majority of these are carers, but nursery assistants and pharmacists are also in this category, it said.

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group, which scrutinises government policy from a gender perspective, said: “We’d known that workers on the frontline at most risk of Covid 19 were often badly paid and mainly women, but these figures are still a shock.

“It can’t be right that many of those at the sharp end, providing services under pressure and at high risk of getting sick themselves, are earning so little. Many will not even qualify for sick pay,” she said.

“The government should take action to properly value the essential work they carry out”, she added.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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