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Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been more likely to lose pay than their white counterparts during the coronavirus pandemic, HuffPost UK can reveal.
Those born outside the UK are also nearly twice as likely to have seen their employability worsen.
The figures were compiled by West Midlands Women’s Voice, which promotes the role of women in the emerging political and economic climate, and the Fawcett Society, the gender equality campaigning charity. They show 13% of BAME women (more than one in eight) and 5% of white women (one in 20) in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester saw changes to their pay packets after the crisis hit.
The vast majority, 92%, of the women reporting changes in pay said they had lost rather than gained income, though the Fawcett Society said it could not break this figure down by ethnic background.
Researchers also found more than a quarter of women from all backgrounds – 28% in the West Midlands and 26% in Greater Manchester – had seen their hours change during the pandemic, with the majority losing work.
A quarter of women in both regions have seen their place of work change, with nine out of 10 of those moving to working from home.
In all, eight out of 10 women in both the West Midlands (81%) and Greater Manchester (81%) say their work has changed in some way during the pandemic
Campaigners are now calling for local action to tackle the mental health and jobs impacts of Covid-19 in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.
The research, which saw more than 1,000 women in each area interviewed, shows four in 10 women in the West Midlands (37%) and Greater Manchester (39%) say their mental health has got worse since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Almost half the women in each area said they would be likely to use high street “pop up shops” for mental health support if they existed. Younger women, BAME women and parents are even more likely to be interested in such an offer.
The survey discovered that almost half of women in the West Midlands (47%) and more than 40% in Greater Manchester have considered retraining into health and social care during Covid-19.
BAME women, younger women and parents are, again, more likely to have given retraining some thought across all fields in both city regions.
A fifth of women in the West Midlands (21%) and Greater Manchester (22%) reported they have been furloughed. More low-income women (30%) compared with higher income women had been furloughed in Greater Manchester.
In the West Midlands, women born outside the UK were more likely to say that their employability had worsened (33%), compared with 18% of UK-born women.
Campaigners from West Midlands Women’s Voice and the Fawcett Society are calling for combined authorities and councils to set up hubs in local high streets to offer support for mental health that is accessible to women.
They also want to see support for retraining for women, including into health and social care, and for action to be taken on BAME employment and pay gaps in industrial strategies.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said: “These findings show the pressures that women, especially BAME women and parents, have been under during lockdown in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.
“It is vital that combined authorities, which are still majority male, listen to women and put in place local, accessible support for mental health.
“It is encouraging to see social care work getting more recognition and more women thinking about joining that workforce.
“We also need to see action urgently from government to increase pay and conditions for our carers.”
“It is vital that combined authorities, which are still majority male, listen to women and put in place local, accessible support for mental health.”
Sharonjit Clare, coordinator of West Midlands Women’s Voice, said: “West Midlands Women’s Voice has driven this research to be sure that the voices of women in the regions could be captured at a pivotal time as we emerge from lockdown and to enable women to steer the often male-dominated economic policy debate.”
She added that their asks of combined authorities will be a real measure of their covenant to deliver inclusive Covid recovery.
Pam Smith, Stockport Council chief executive, said a Women and Girls Panel was being established in Greater Manchester, and that the findings of the survey would help shape its priorities.
Deborah Cadman, chief executive of West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “Putting the spotlight on how women have been affected by the pandemic will help shape our recovery plans for the region, which will be more than economic recovery – we also need to reconnect as a community and fundamentally rethink how we work and live.”