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Black, Asian and minority ethnic women are experiencing a “crisis of support” during the coronavirus pandemic, new research suggests, with BAME women disproportionately affected by financial loss and psychological distress.
BAME women are more likely to worry their debt will increase as a result of the pandemic, according to the survey of more than 3,200 people.
More than four in 10 (42.9%) BAME women said they believed they would be in more debt than before the pandemic, compared to 37.1% of white women and 34.2% of white men. A similar proportion of BAME women, 42.9%, said they would struggle to make ends meet over the next three months.
Nearly a quarter (23.7%) of BAME mothers reported that they were struggling to feed their children during the pandemic, compared to 19% of white mothers.
The analysis from the women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University London and London School of Economics doesn’t show a breakdown of the impact of coronavirus by ethnicity. The researchers acknowledge the limitations of the study due to the “artificial grouping” of people, noting that “the experiences of women within it will vary greatly”.
“The funding for this survey was not enough to cover the larger sample size that would have been needed to report separately on women and men by ethnicity,” they said. “We felt it was important to carry out this research rather than not look at how gender and ethnicity intersect.”
Still, the research shows health is just one of the many disproportionate impacts the pandemic is having on BAME people.
Work-related anxiety was highest among BAME people, with 65.1% BAME women and 73.8% of BAME men working outside the home reporting anxiety as a result of having to go to work during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, 43% of disabled or retired BAME women surveyed and 48% BAME men said they’d lost government support, compared with 13% of white women and 21% white men in the same group.
Over half (51%) of disabled or retired BAME women also said they weren’t sure where to turn to for help, compared with one in five white women.
Unequal pressures are also being felt at home. Around three quarters of women reported doing the majority of the housework or of the childcare during lockdown. This was similar for BAME and white women.
Women in general – and BAME women in particular – expressed more concern about access to NHS treatment and medicine over the coming months. Around two in five said they were finding social isolation difficult to cope with, but this was lowest among white men. Life satisfaction and happiness were lowest for BAME women, and anxiety was highest for all women compared to men.
“The unequal impact of this crisis is driven by existing structural inequalities and discrimination in our society.”
Commenting on the findings, Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society said: “As the government relaxes the lockdown, it must consider the impacts on different ethnic groups and also adopt a gendered approach. The unequal impact of this crisis is driven by existing structural inequalities and discrimination in our society.
“Addressing that must be the focus of any plan going forward.”
Professor Sophie Harman, Professor of International Politics at Queen Mary University of London, said questions of race, ethnicity, and health have “long been too easily dismissed” as a problem of class or socio-economic status.
“Covid-19 is a bleak wake-up to those who need to see racial inequality in UK healthcare,” she said.