Coronavirus: our calls to the government
Young women have been amongst those worst affected by the crisis. As we move in to the ‘second phase’ the government must take the opportunity to keep them safe and financially secure.
Here is our five-point plan to ensure no young woman is left behind:
1. Make sure no young women face financial hardship due to the crisis
Many young women were facing financial hardship before the crisis but have now been pushed to the brink. Young women are disproportionately likely to be working in sectors that have had to close. They are facing rising debts due to their lost income and with a recession looming, many are worried about their future finances as they fear being amongst the first to lose their jobs.
The government must act now to ensure that no young women face financial hardship as a result of the crisis or the economic fallout expected to follow.This should include safeguarding jobs, ensuring the benefits system can provide security for young women and increasing support so that those losing their job can find alternative employment.
2. Value young women’s unpaid work
Young women have taken on significant unpaid caring responsibilities as loved ones fall ill with the virus and children aren’t able to go to school or day care. As the country takes its first tentative steps out of lockdown, young women will continue to bear the brunt of this work, filling in the gaps where traditional services are unable to operate. They will be put at risk and exposed financially as they are less able to return to work.
Young women shouldn’t have to carry this responsibility alone and must not be forced into financial hardship if they are.The government must value the unpaid work they do. At the heart of this must be guaranteed access to childcare, increased financial support for carers, and flexibilities in the job retention scheme to allow for temporary and unpredictable interruptions to work at this uncertain time.
3. Protect young women at work
Young women are more likely than men to be working as key workers in public facing roles. As increasing numbers of businesses open up, young women will continue to be amongst those most exposed to the physical risks when they return, both in work and on their journeys to work. Those in low-paid, insecure jobs will find it hardest to resist pressures to return to work, even if their safety cannot be guaranteed. Government guidance puts these young women at the mercy of their employers.
We expect clarity and leadership from government to ensure that no young woman is put at risk including further guidance on protection for vulnerable groups and greater scrutiny and enforcement of existing worker rights.
4. Focus on the most vulnerable young women
Young women are already the highest risk group in the population for mental ill health, a situation made worse throughout the crisis. We know that the crisis has had a greater impact on groups including disabled young women and young women of colour. There have also been marked increases in domestic abuse and other forms of violence towards women. Services that were already struggling to meet demand before the crisis have been buckling under the strain. There must be an urgent prioritisation of these services by the government.
5. Put young women’s experiences at the heart of the recovery
Despite being amongst those hardest hit by the crisis young women are largely ignored in the government response and their voices are, as ever, missing from the public debate. A better understanding of their experiences is needed through engaging with young women directly and through the organisations that support them. This must be supported by ensuring official data reflects the experiences of young women and others with protected characteristics and makes it clear how the crisis is affecting them.
We want the government to set out a clear jobs plan for young women. Will you write to your MP and ask them to close the women's data gap?