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The three charts that show the economic impact of lockdown

Women and those at the bottom of the wage range are the worst affected

By Tom Clark   June 2020

familiar phrase from the news is that coronavirus “doesn’t discriminate.” Perhaps so, but the economic treatment for it assuredly does. While office-based professionals grumble about adjusting to working from home, in all sorts of sectors from hotels to high street stores, where activity relies on the physical presence of customers, there is simply no work to be done—not at home or anywhere else.

And in these industries there are more young people, more women and, most especially, more of the low paid. The numbers in chart 1, crunched by Robert Joyce and Xiaowei Xu of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, reveal that someone at the bottom of the wage range is seven times as likely to be in a business that has ground to a halt as someone at the top.

Medically, Covid-19 preys harder on the elderly, and especially older men. But the economic damage caused by the treatment for it is the opposite in both respects. In chart 2, we see that young workers are almost three times more likely to have been locked out of employment as those in middle-age, and that women are also more likely to be affected than men.

The expected economic skew intensifies as minds turn to the future. Despite the proliferation of government schemes to try to avoid mass redundancies, the final chart—from an Oxford University survey—reveals that those who start out on lower pay anticipate a higher proportional hit to earnings than those further up the range. The survey contains hints that practices such as zero-hour contracts could be playing a role, as employers switch on and off their demand for the labour of lower-paid workers. 

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