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Characteristics of those most vulnerable to employment changes during the COVID-19 pandemic: a nationally representative cross-sectional study in Wales

By Benjamin J Gray, Richard G Kyle, Jiao Song, Alisha R Davies

Posted 04 Nov 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.03.20225144

Background The public health response to the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a detrimental impact on employment and there are concerns the impact may be greatest amongst the most vulnerable. We examined the characteristics of those who experienced changes in employment status during the early months of the pandemic. Methods Data was collected from a cross-sectional, nationally representative household survey of the working age population (18-64 years) in Wales in May/June 2020 (N=1,379). We looked at changes in employment and being placed on furlough since February 2020 across demographics, contract type, job skill level, health status and household factors. Chi-squared or Fishers tests and multinomial logistic regression models examined associations between demographics, subgroups and employment outcomes. Results Of our respondents 91.0% remained in the same job in May/June 2020 as they were in February 2020, 5.7% were now in a new job, and 3.3% experienced unemployment. In addition, 24% of our respondents reported being placed on furlough. Non-permanent contract types, individuals who reported low mental wellbeing and household financial difficulties were all significant factors in experiencing unemployment. Being placed on furlough was more likely in younger (18-29 years) and older (60-64 years) workers, those in lower skilled jobs and from households with less financial security. Conclusion A number of vulnerable population groups were observed to experience detrimental employment outcomes during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted support is needed to mitigate against both the direct impacts on employment, and indirect impacts on financial insecurity and health.

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