Recent headlines have shown that Covid-19 outcomes are far poorer for those living in disadvantaged areas, proving the strong connection between money and health. On top of that, our financial wellbeing (which refers to the amount of control we feel over financial future and our relationship with money) is closely linked to our mental and social wellbeing, as well as our physical health. People worrying about money are 880% more likely to have sleepless nights and 470% more likely to be depressed. A vicious cycle exists where worrying about money can worsen health and wellbeing and poorer wellbeing can make managing money harder. Interestingly, this is not confined to low earners but also to those who are higher paid. If you consider that financial wellbeing has declined dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic it is obvious that many people are in for a rocky ride.
Even before COVID-19, studies have found that women have less money, and they worry more about it. A PwC Employee Financial Wellbeing report based on data from January 2020 found that, if out of work for an extended period, only half as many women as compared to men would be able to meet basic expenses. Meanwhile the 2019 Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing found that 41% of women worried about money, compared to 32% of men(despite no significant difference in approach to saving).
Much has already been written regarding the way women have been disproportionately financially affected by the pandemic. They are more likely to work in an affected sector of the economy (such as tourism, retail and hospitality). They are also more likely to bear the brunt of childcare and home education, as well as caring for elderly or vulnerable relatives, while attempting to juggle their day job at the same time. As a result, they get through one hour of paid work for every three done by men, are more likely to be furloughed and to be made redundant. Single parents (90% of whom are women), pregnant women and new mothers, the self-employed, women claiming benefits and childcare workers have all been especially hard hit. And any progress made towards correcting the gender pay gap seems to have been halted in its tracks since the lockdown started. A recent government infographic depicting the women of a lockdown household doing housework and caring for children while a single man lounges on a sofa seems to say it all. It has since been hastily retracted after complaints flooded in but the impression it gave befits the reality on the ground, which is that the pandemic has made existing inequalities worse for many women.
The tendency of most women to prioritise families over their finances should not have to come at such a high price. Their focus on the health, wellbeing (and now even the education) of children and others they care for should be rewarded and recognised as the ‘key work’ it is for the future progress of our society. It’s impossible to put a value on what that’s worth. Until such utopian time as that happens, what can women do to improve their situation?
Financial wellbeing is one of the four pillars of wellbeing which contribute to the overall wellbeing of an individual.
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