Analysing the gender balance of childcare during COVID-19 lockdown
11 June 2020
Professor Sarah Smith, Head of Economics, and Professor Almudena Sevilla of UCL analysed new survey data to explore the gender balance of childcare during lockdown.
The closure of schools and nurseries during the current pandemic has led to a huge burden of additional childcare for parents. They are doing the equivalent of a working-week of childcare. Mothers have done more of the additional hours and many have been left juggling work and childcare. However, fathers have also increased the time they spend on childcare and, when they are not working, there is an equal allocation.
The division of domestic labour during lockdown has followed a similar pattern to that pre-COVID19. Women have borne the majority of the additional burden of childcare, doing ten hours more per week then men, on average. They are also doing a lot more juggling of childcare and work than men are. The time that women spend on childcare is less sensitive to their employment than it is for men with mothers doing a lot of childcare even when they are still working. Short term, this appears to be negatively impacting women’s mental health. Longer-term it may impact negatively on their careers and worsen gender pay gaps.
More positively, there have been baby steps towards a more equal allocation. Many men have had their working hours reduced or lost their jobs since lockdown and, in households where men have more time on their hands because they are furloughed or been made unemployed, there is an equal sharing of childcare. This offers a glimmer of hope for a more positive future in terms of the domestic division of labour.