This is a fast-moving issue and should be read as correct at the date of publication (02.06.20).
The coronavirus pandemic has different impacts on different groups of workers. For workers defined by the Government as ‘key workers’ the health risk is heightened.
This Insight outlines which workers have experienced the biggest health risk, and breaks these groups down by ethnicity, gender, country of birth, disability status, household type, and rates of pay.
Who is more likely to be a key worker?
Key workers are more likely than average to be from a BAME background, be women, be born outside the UK, and be paid less than the average UK income.
Of key workers:
- 14% are from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) backgrounds (4% are Black, 7% Asian, 1% Mixed, and 2% ‘Other’), compared to a workforce average of 12%.
- 58% are women, compared to a workforce average of 48%.
- 15% are disabled (as defined by the Equality Act 2010), compared to a workforce average of 14%.
- 18% are born outside of the UK, compared to a workforce average of 11%.
The chart below shows the composition of key workers.
Key workers by household type
45% of households with dependent children include at least one key worker.
In households with dependent children and at least one adult key worker: 19% of households have both parents as key workers, and in 14% of households the key worker is a lone parent.
Key workers have lower rates of pay
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 33% of key workers earn £10 or less an hour, compared with 28% of workers in non-key sectors.
The median key worker earned £12.26 per hour in 2019, 8% less than the £13.26 per hour earned by the median earner not in a key worker occupation.
Workers in occupations with a high number of Covid-19 deaths
Workers in occupations with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths – such as care workers, taxi and cab drivers, security guards, and sales and retail assistants – are also more likely to come from a BAME background, be women, and have lower than average rates of pay.
According to the ONS, within the 19 individual occupations with the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths, 1,088 workers aged 20-64 died in England and Wales between 9 March and 20 April 2020.
Our analysis of the Labour Force Survey shows that of the workers in the occupations:
- 13% are from BAME backgrounds, compared to a workforce average of 12%.
- 55% are women, compared to a 48% workforce average.
- 15% are disabled (as defined by the Equality Act 2010), compared to a 14% workforce average.
Occupations with high levels of Covid-19 deaths have lower rates of pay
10% of workers in these occupations earn £10 or less an hour, compared to an 8% workforce average.
Occupations with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths varies by gender
In the period 9 March-20 April 2020 there were 2,494 deaths registered in England and Wales which involved Covid-19: 1,612 men and 882 women. The most common occupations among these people were different for men and women.
Among women, care workers and home carers are most at risk, with 66 deaths between 9 March and 20 April, followed by nurses and nursing auxiliaries and assistants, with 31 deaths.
Among men, taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs are most at risk with 76 deaths in this period, followed by security guards and related occupations (63 deaths), and care workers and home carers (32 deaths).
Workers who are economically impacted
Workers in sectors which were shut down by the coronavirus pandemic are also more likely than average to be women and from a BAME background, as well as under 35-years-old and working part-time. We have looked at this in more detail in Coronavirus: Which workers are economically impacted?
Coronavirus: Impact on the labour market, House of Commons Library
Coronavirus: Which workers are economically impacted?, House of Commons Library
Differences between key workers, Institute for Fiscal Studies
What happens after the clapping finishes?, Resolution Foundation
About the author: Brigid Francis-Devine is a researcher at the House of Commons Library and specialises in labour markets, poverty and inequality.