As the COVID-19 epidemic swept across the UK the virus and its related measures of lockdown had a range of varying impacts on people’s income and time use as well as subjective well-being according to their ethnicity, gender, and education level, according to an investigation of more than 51,000 UK adults. The study is published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Muzhi Zhou of the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues.
Recent evidence has shown that the COVID-19 Pandemic and its associated social and economic measures, including business closure and physical distancing, have different impacts on different social groups. These effects were first investigated in the early stages of COVID-19, but little is known about their effects over time and how they might have changed after the initial lockdown in the UK.
Zhou and his colleagues used data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study COVID study’s first eight waves, as well as the two prior waves (2017/2018 2018, 2018/2019) of the UKHLS main survey. The household panel survey comprises an accurate sample of 51,000 adults (16 years old and over) comprised of around 40,000 households. The sample includes people between the ages of 20 to 65 who participated in the UKHLS main survey, and at least one wave of the COVID study.
The pandemic caused a sharp decrease in earnings and hours worked each week for those who worked. There was also an increase in housework hours and stress. However, these effects varied between men and women, across ethnicities, and between degree and non-degree holders. In the first lockdown for instance, the decrease in working hours paid was less for female workers – explained partly by a greater proportion of women employed in key sectors-;but men’s paid work time improved faster than women’s after the initial lockdown. In the first few months of the lockdown, the women’s distress levels were significantly higher than those for males. However, as women’s subjective well-being improved, men’s distress levels started to rise. BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) participants were more adversely affected than white participants in terms of earnings. This gap continued even after the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
The authors claim that the new data provide crucial insight into whether inequities between income, time, and well-being will be long-lasting or only temporary. The authors say it’s unclear when earnings, work patterns, and family life will return to pre-pandemic levels.
The authors add: “One pandemic, multiple lockdowns and diverse experiences.”
Zhou, M. & Kan M-E. (2021) The various effects of COVID-19 in the UK and related measures: A year in review. PLOS ONE. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257286.
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