We asked our diarists whether they think inequality and division in the UK will increase or decrease as a result of the coronavirus crisis, compared with before the pandemic. A clear majority believe the crisis will lead to an increase in both inequalities and divisions - with concerns about employment, poverty, the impacts on Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups, and the impacts on children of remote learning.

The chart below shows 83 of our diarists (out of 93) believe the coronavirus crisis will increase the level of inequality in the UK, with four expecting it to make no difference, and only three thinking it will decrease the level of inequality.

N=93 diarists

A majority (58 respondents) also think the coronavirus will increase how divided the UK is, compared to before the pandemic. 11 respondents believe it will make no difference, while 10 respondents think it will decrease how divided the UK is. 14 respondents answered 'don’t know'.

N=93 diarists


Several diarists commented on the situation being more difficult for those working in low-paid or precarious jobs:

…lots of people who rely on zero wage contracts or other precarious forms of work are likely to be unemployed, particularly in the service industries. The benefits system is already proving insufficient as a safety net and so I think society will become more unequal as people with secure jobs or who had good pensions will be even more removed in terms of their experience, from people who don't have these resources.
From what I can see, the pandemic is hitting those who are in insecure employment worse. People who are in lower paid, so called ‘unskilled’ work are also more likely to be working on the front line where there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll catch the virus. It feels like lower income families will be hit from all angles.
People like me who are middle class and have ‘professional’ jobs are more likely to be able to work at home, meaning we have kept earning and are more easily able to avoid places where we might catch the virus.
The impact of the economy and the increase in unemployment is going to be huge. Many in existing low paid sectors will find themselves unemployed e.g. tourism, hospitality, small businesses. while there may be a degree of levelling as those in better paid jobs also lose their employment, the overall impact is going to hit hardest those who have small or no savings, high rents and low prospects. It's quite scary.

One diarist expressed concerned about people who are self-employed:

I think that because there are lots of self-employed people, like myself, there will be an inequality of work, maybe lots of people competing for less business that is available. Maybe those people who are self-employed or have been made redundant may have to rethink their entire working lives.

Women’s workplace equality will be set back

Several diarists commented on the additional burdens facing women, particularly in relation to childcare:

Women will be returning to work generally more tired and burnt out. They will be the first to leave employment to care for children (when they return to school only part time). Overall, rather than using this time to lean in, women are busy with domestic work which means a larger gap in terms of taking on more responsibility at work.
Expectations on women to put children before their career seem to be increasing while men are given a free card to focus on work.
The coronavirus has only increased the inequality as people have been stuck in their homes and the need for childcare has increased. Many women I know have been the ones to sacrifice their jobs in order to look after the children. Domestic abuse situations where the men from separated couples have taken the opportunity to shirk their childcare responsibilities.

Austerity and poverty

For many diarists, the growing divide between richer and poorer households was of particular concern:

Those with money have been able to weather the storm but for people just hanging on, just about coping this will have put them back so far.
The conditions of lockdown are unequally distributed - low paid employment is more likely to have required face to face working rather than working from home and in riskier situations (working conditions, travelling on public transport). When testing became more widely available it was necessary to have a car to get to testing sites. This kind of public level short-sighted approach is shocking and unforgivable in its exclusions.
If you have money, you'll be relatively protected. If you don't have money, you'll be likely to struggle to eat and keep a roof over your head. Meeting the basic necessities of life was difficult for so many of us before and at the moment, the future is terrifying to think about.

One diarist spoke of the ‘new found poverty’ that may emerge as a result of the pandemic:

Knowing how many people have been furloughed/lost their jobs during this crisis means that there is a significant number of people in this country who are a lot worse off than before. There are people who cannot pay their bills, rent, mortgages and get food because they haven't the money for it any more. Added to the fact that it is seemingly impossible to find a job at the moment so they have no means to combat this new found poverty is shocking.

Concern for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

Some diarists commented on the racial inequalities being exposed by the pandemic, with reference to the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests around the world:

I am of Caribbean descent and have talked about this with friends and family - all of us agree that the wrong questions are being asked and researched; maybe because this clear disparity suggests something sinister and uncomfortable. With recent events in the United States continuing (George Floyd) and the authoritarian response as the first response to addressing inequalities, I fear nations such as the UK will not examine what is really going on.
It's already apparent that more vulnerable people are suffering worse because of it, and more BAME than white people.
People are angry: they are angry about the catastrophe, about the needless deaths, and they are angry about how it has highlighted the fact that some groups, especially the BAME community, are disproportionately affected by the virus. Coupled with the protests about the murder of George Floyd in America, I think the divisions in society will only become more pronounced.
We have already seen how corona affects BAME people in a disproportionate way and the poor response of the government to this, with them redacting sections of the recent report and leaving black voices out of the report says it all. This is only one example of the way a corona world and post corona world without a vaccine is going to discriminate.

Remote learning for children

The impact on poorer students was mentioned by some diarists:

I am shocked at the disparity between the work my children are being set by their private school and the work their peers are being set by the local state comprehensives which are supposed to be good schools.
Some kids have the chance to have available parents to help with home schooling and provide at home a good education while others have parents who need to work, take care of other siblings or just do not have the education level required to support their child.

Some diarists spoke of the difficulties around remote learning for disadvantaged students:

Already disadvantaged children, without access to the internet are falling further behind in their education.
I work in a state high school. One of our ongoing priorities is to try to reduce the advantage gap between students of different backgrounds. This has set progress back massively. In our school, we have students who will be getting on with all their remote learning, supported by parents and with adequate tech. Other students have had trouble accessing free school meals vouchers; parents have lost their zero hours jobs; Wi-Fi is too expensive and parents aren’t able to support remote learning either because of language mental health barriers.

A glimmer of hope

There was hope in some responses, mostly drawing on the feeling of ‘togetherness’:

I find myself hoping for a gentle revolution afterwards, where we tackle inequality, climate change & poverty as a result of this experience, building on abrupt changes of habit.
Maybe the feeling that we are ‘all in it together’, more awareness of the importance of community and a greater awareness of how valuable public sector workers are will stay with people after lockdown.
I am being hopeful in this one. The one benefit I can see from this pandemic is how key workers are valued now. People who before were almost invisible to society. The supermarket workers, the bin collectors, the postal workers etc. These were seen before as 'easy jobs' that anyone can do. Now everyone can see what a fabulous job they do in keeping the UK on its feet. They have worked tirelessly throughout this and they make me proud.

Thank you to our diarists for sharing their experiences with us each week. If you would like to sign up to take part, please use this link.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash