08 June 2020 

New polling analysis released today reveals the pressure on BAME women during the coronavirus lockdown. 43% of disabled or retired BAME women and 48% BAME men say that they had lost government support compared with 13% of white women and 21% white men in the same group. Over half (51%) of disabled or retired BAME women also said they were not sure where to turn to for help compared with 1 in 5 (19%) of white women.

This is despite the fact that BAME people have been found to be more at risk during the pandemic. The recent Public Health England review confirmed that the risk of dying among those diagnosed with coronavirus is higher within BAME groups than in white ethnic groups.

Unequal pressures are also being felt at work and at home. BAME people working from home are more likely to say they are working more than prior to lockdown, with 4 in 10 (41% women and 40% men) agreeing compared with 3 in 10 white people (29% women, 29% men). Nearly half of BAME women (45%) say they are struggling to cope with the demands on their time, compared with 35% of white women and 30% of white men.

The analysis from Women’s Budget Group, Fawcett Society, Queen Mary University London and London School of Economics shows that these health impacts are just one of the many disproportionate impacts the pandemic is having on BAME people. The physical, psychological and financial impact of coronavirus is being felt sharply by the BAME community and in particular amongst BAME women.

This survey looks at BAME women. We recognise the limitations of this artificial grouping, and that the experiences of women within it will vary greatly. The funding for this survey was not enough to cover the larger sample size that would have been needed to report separately on women and men by ethnicity. We felt it was important to carry out this research rather than not look at how gender and ethnicity intersect. 

Key findings:

  • Debt: Concerns about debt are disproportionately high; 42.9% BAME women said they believed they would be in more debt, than before the pandemic compared to 37.1% of white women, and 34.2% of white men.
  • Poverty: Nearly a quarter of BAME mothers reported that they were struggling to feed their children (23.7%, compared to 19% of white mothers).
  • Access to support and services: Over twice as many disabled or retired BAME women and men reported that they had recently lost support from the government (42.5% and 48.3%) than white women and men in these groups (12.7% and 20.6%). BAME respondents in this group were also more likely to say they had lost support from other people (48.3% BAME women compared to 34.0% white women) and were less likely to say that there were people outside of their household who they could rely on for help (47.4% compared to 57.2%).
  • Anxiety: 65.1% BAME women and 73.8% of BAME men working outside the home reported anxiety as a result of having to go out to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Zubaida Haque, Interim Director of the Runnymede Trust said:

“Covid-19 has brought the harsh realities of pre-existing racial inequalities into sharp relief, and nowhere is this more manifest than the disproportionate social and economic impact of covid-19 on black and ethnic minority women. This survey starkly illustrates the higher levels of health and economic burden among BME women, including the higher proportions of BME mothers reporting that they are struggling to feed their children, compared to their white counterparts. Unless the Chancellor takes more steps to strengthen the social security safety net during Covid-19, the racial inequality gap between BME and white groups will get even wider, leaving BME groups, and BME women in particular, even more vulnerable to the bleak and unequal consequences of Covid-19.”

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

“Disabled and older BAME women are experiencing a crisis of support as they are also hit harder by the effects of the pandemic. It is no surprise that BAME women also report the lowest levels of life satisfaction and happiness too.

“As the Government relaxes the lockdown it must consider the impacts on different ethnic groups and also adopt a gendered approach. The unequal impact of this crisis is driven by existing structural inequalities and discrimination in our society.  Addressing that must be the focus of any plan going forward.”

Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the Women’s Budget Group said:

“The report from Public Health England showed that BAME communities are disproportionately likely to become seriously ill and die from Covid-19. What we now see is that the social, financial and psychological impacts of the pandemic are worse for BAME people too. It is particularly concerning that BAME women are reporting limited access to support from the Government. It is crucial that the Government carries out and publishes meaningful equality impact assessments on the impact of both the virus itself and their policies in response to it.”

Download the full press release here
Read the full research briefing here