Are things getting more difficult for young women? Holly, one of our peer researchers, compares data from our 2022 and 2020 surveys to find out.
There has always been a longstanding inequality in earnings between young women and men. So it comes as no surprise that young women are being disproportionately affected by the current cost of living crisis. Each year we commission an annual survey of 18 to 30 year olds, to help us understand the financial and employment experiences of young women. From comparing the results from 2020 and 2022, we can already see how things are getting more difficult.
Filled with dread
Over half (52%) of young women are ‘filled with dread’ when they think about their household finances, compared to just over a quarter (27%) in 2020. Due to this pressure, levels of debt are also increasing. Over a third of young women said they have taken on new debt in the last year, compared to only a quarter of young men. This additional debt is causing a negative impact on young women’s mental health, increasing the pressure that they feel day to day.
A quarter of young women said their standard of living has got worse over the last 12 months, which is nearly double when compared to 2020.
This has meant that young women are being forced to choose between food and heating. In 2022, 54% of young women surveyed agreed that it is a ‘real struggle’ to make their cash last until the end of the month, compared to 31% in 2020. For single mums, this rises to 75%, which is a significant increase from the 53% who said this was the case in 2020. Due to additional childcare responsibilities, young mums especially need to have access to flexible and secure employment opportunities. A third of young women said that they are worried about job security and a quarter are worried about not having regular or predictable hours.
Standard of living has got worse
However, it isn’t only young women’s finances which have been impacted, their standard of living has also worsened. A quarter of young women surveyed said that it has got worse over the last 12 months, which is nearly double when compared to 2020, where only 14% provided this response. This was echoed in particular amongst those young women on benefits. 56% do not think that the benefits they receive provide them with enough income to live comfortably and young women receiving benefits are amongst the most likely to say they are struggling financially.
What needs to change?
The data shows us how much young women are being impacted by the current economic climate. But the concerning thing is that it is getting worse. Many young women are struggling both financially and with their mental health. The lack of support is evident and more change needs to happen. The government need to understand the impact rising costs are having on young women and provide adequate benefits and financial incentives to help those most at risk. There should also be more opportunities for young women to access flexible working and sanctions for employers that fail to reduce gender pay gaps.