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Single parents’ journey through the Covid-19 crisis (interim report)

Clery E, Dewar L, Papoutsaki D |   | Gingerbread / Institute for Employment Studies | Nov 2020

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There has been little consideration of the impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on single parents.  Our research sought to fill this gap, focusing on those single parent workers who were not defined as ‘critical workers’ and who are likely to have faced the greatest challenges in terms of needing to work and care simultaneously during Lockdown.

The research involved two strands, an analysis the official Labour Force Survey (LFS) and qualitative interviews with 40 single parents. As part of this research, we will be analysing LFS data up to the end of 2020 and re-interviewing the single parents in January 2021 in order to track the next stages of single parents’ journeys through the Crisis and to update and expand our recommendations.  The findings of both sets of research will be drawn together in a final report and published in March 2021.

This interim report focuses on the period between March and August 2020. It summarises the analysis of the data and key themes that emerged from the baseline interviews with single parents. On the basis of these data, we make a series of initial recommendations to ensure that the unique position and challenges facing single parents are considered in the context of the continued restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 Crisis.

Key Statistical Findings:

  • In early 2020 single parents were less financially secure and on lower incomes than other family types - coupled parents earned almost twice as much per week than single parents;
  • Nearly half (46%) of single parents worked in routine occupations compared to coupled parents (26%).  Routine jobs in retail, hotels and restaurants have been particularly impacted by cuts to hours and job loses as a result of the Crisis;
  • Single parents are twice as likely to have a zero hours contract as other family types which puts them at greater risk of job insecurity as a result of the Crisis;
  • Whist the first lockdown saw an increase in those that could work from home this shift was less pronounced for single parents (22%) than coupled parents (35%); 
  • Single parents are more likely to have been furloughed (30%) compared to couple parents (21%) reflecting both single parents caring responsibilities but also that they are more likely to work in lockdown sectors that will experience further job losses; and
  • Single parents were twice as likely to have poor mental health, compared with other family types, immediately before and in the early stages of the Crisis. Overall 51% of single parents reported having depression, bad nerves or anxiety; compared with 27% of couple parents.