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The pandemic squeeze on women’s job opportunities

Hiring in the UK is slowly but surely recovering as we move into spring. But is the recovery benefitting everyone equally? To dig into this question, we took a look at hiring activity within the top 20 occupations held by men and women, to discover if either gender has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Our resident Adzuna data boffins analysed the number of advertised vacancies available in the 20 occupations employing most women and most men, comparing current hiring levels with pre-pandemic hiring levels, to see how men and women have been affected by the pandemic.

The findings were stark. Advertised vacancies within the top 20 occupations historically employing the most women have slipped 40.2% year-on-year. This includes a 38.1% decline in jobs for sales and retail assistants, the top occupation held by women in 2020, with just 6,370 openings on offer in February 2021.

Compared to a year ago, hiring has fallen in 19 of the top 20 occupations historically employing the most women. This includes substantial declines in opportunities for receptionists (-52.0%), nursery nurses and assistants (-42.9%), personal assistants and other secretaries (-49.3%) and hairdressers and barbers (-37.3%). Care workers and home carers was the only occupation to see a hiring rise (+45.9%).


Table 1: Top 20 Jobs for Women

Job TitleNumber of jobs held by women, 2020Available vacancies, Feb 2021Change YoYAverage advertised salary, Feb 2021
Sales and retail assistants823,1836,370-38.1%£25,541
Care workers and home carers776,72214,739+45.9%£20,647
Cleaners and domestics589,5007,688-2.1%£19,284
Other administrative occupations526,48522,482-34.9%£23,965
Primary and nursery education teaching professionals424,7567,853-9.7%£35,759
Teaching assistants391,96311,591-2.4%£20,930
Book-keepers, payroll managers and wages clerks335,49416,996-19.9%£37,091
Kitchen and catering assistants319,0861,248-69.1%£19,296
Nursing auxiliaries and assistants315,7403,329-8.7%£31,197
Secondary education teaching professionals278,11516,287-28.9%£38,642
Waiters and waitresses220,593859-98.5%£18,155
Nursery nurses and assistants212,0358,018-42.9%£23,888
Customer service occupations211,80614,592-25.7%£22,194
Sales accounts and business development managers195,70450,836-22.2%£45,893
Personal assistants and other secretaries185,9344,238-49.3%£31,795
Retail cashiers and check-out operators179,374665-45.3%£24,807
Hairdressers and barbers169,309604-37.3%£22,332
Teaching and other educational professionals166,61852,173-26.4%£33,159


By comparison, hiring activity within the top 20 occupations historically employing the most men has fallen just 11.8%. Job openings increased year-on-year in 6 of the top 20 male occupations, namely warehouse workers (+37.0%), large goods drivers (+76.6%), van drivers (+14.0%), electricians (+12.8%), carpenters and joiners (+15.9%) and construction and building trades (+26.0%).


Table 2: Top 20 Jobs for Men

Job TitleNumber of jobs held by men, 2020Advertised vacancies, Feb 2021Change YoYAverage advertised salary, Feb 2021
Sales and retail assistants498,8626,370-38.1%£25,541
Warehouse workers436,9727,594+37.0%£22,110
Large goods vehicle drivers326,0788,240+76.6%£27,539
Production managers and directors in manufacturing311,7932,630-19.6%£43,645
Sales accounts and business development managers297,38350,807-22.2%£45,892
Programmers and software development professionals252,20024,537-2.6%£54,359
Electricians and electrical fitters241,89941,109+12.8%£38,856
Carpenters and joiners240,9705,912+15.9%£36,385
Construction and building trades236,21773,547+26.0%£42,376
Taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs226,804251-16.6%£25,240
Kitchen and catering assistants222,2861,248-69.1%£19,296
Van drivers221,5931,626+14.0%£25,722
Secondary education teaching professionals200,19316,287-29.7%£38,642
Vehicle technicians, mechanics and electricians199,8772,659-13.1%£32,184
Production managers and directors in construction188,2766,250-13.5%£50,608
Metal working production and maintenance fitters186,9093,454-17.2%£36,440
Security guards and related occupations178,032814-17.0%£20,959
Elementary construction occupations173,83914,308-20.4%£31,168
Other administrative occupations167,38722,482-34.9%£23,965


The broader context: women in the workplace

Women account for 49.8% of the UK’s professional and technical workers, but make up just 36.3% of legislators, senior officials and managers, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of women are employed in other sectors severely affected by pandemic restrictions, including the Wedding Industry (80% women), Beauticians (64% women), Childminders (95% women), and Travel agents (86% women). With just 2,498 Travel vacancies currently up for grabs and only 2,956 event manager roles available, opportunities for those affected to find new roles are currently limited.

Our research also uncovered a gender-pay gap within the top 20 female and male occupations. Our data finds the average advertised salary on offer for jobs historically employing most women is £32,749, compared to £39,482 for men, showing women are more likely to be in lower paid roles.

Here’s what our co-founder Andrew Hunter had to say about the findings:

“The pandemic has hurt job prospects for women. Hiring in jobs historically employing women has been hit hard. Covid-19 has left many women with lower pay, fewer options, and often shouldering the burden of increased caring needs. There is a danger that the last twelve months could widen the gender pay gap and increase inequality. We must not allow that to happen.”


Key Takeaways

We need to take a long hard look at how we support women through the pandemic and into work. Part of this is about opening up more roles to women, through better flexible working and improving childcare options. But we also need a shift in mentality to encourage more women into high growth sectors like Logistics, Tech & Manufacturing, ensuring they benefit from the opportunities being created in these areas.


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