The lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic has effectively shut down a number of sectors. Restaurants, shops and leisure facilities have been ordered to close, air travel has halted, and public transport has been greatly reduced.

New analysis from researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that:

  • The lockdown will hit young workers the hardest. Employees aged under 25 were about two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that is now shut down as other employees. On the eve of the crisis sectors that are shut down as result of social distancing measures employed nearly a third (30%) of all employees under the age of 25 (25% of young men and 36% of young women). This compares to just one in eight (13%) of workers aged 25 and over. (These figures all exclude full-time students with part-time jobs).
  • Low earners are seven times as likely as high earners to have worked in a sector that is now shut down. Fully one third of employees in the bottom tenth of the earnings distribution work in shut down sectors versus just 5% of those in the top 10%.
  • Women were about one third more likely to work in a sector that is now shut down than men: one in six (17% of) female employees were in such sectors, compared to one in seven (13% of) male employees.
  • One mitigating factor is that the majority of the affected younger workers and lower earners live with parents or others whose earnings are likely to be less affected, so many may suffer smaller hits to their living standards than otherwise.

Xiaowei Xu, a Senior Research Economist at IFS and an author of this briefing note, said:

“There is a remarkable concentration of younger and lower paid workers in the sectors most affected by the current lockdown. Women are also more likely to be affected than men. Fortunately, in the short run, many will have the cushion of the incomes of parents or other household members. But for the longer term there must be serious worries about the effect of this crisis on the young especially and on inequality more generally.”