Women in the beauty sector have been abandoned throughout Covid-19
Women’s beauty services remain largely restricted, writes Marsha De Cordova MP | PA Images
The Government must explain why it has imposed restrictions on the beauty industry but not in other male dominated sectors, disproportionately risking the livelihoods of women and BAME women in particular.
We already know that the coronavirus crisis disproportionately impacts women.
Women make up the majority of low paid workers, and so are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship. Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that sectors that have been hit hardest by lockdown, such as hospitality and travel employ a high number of women.
But the despite this, the Government has failed to show any understanding of why gender matters in this crisis.
The chancellor’s most recent Summer Statement did not produce an equality impact assessment for any of its new policies, nor did it announce any support for women working in social care or provide any assistance with childcare.
And the Government’s handling of the beauty industry is no different.
On 13 July, the Government confirmed that beauty salons and nail bars, which employ 90% female staff, would reopen. But upon further inspection it became clear that most facial treatments, make-up application and facial hair removal, would not be allowed to restart.
For the countless women who rely on the sector for their livelihoods, this is a devastating blow. Whilst services predominantly staffed by men, such as beard trimming, are allowed to resume, women’s beauty services remain largely restricted.
80% of those working in the beauty industry have felt unsupported throughout Covid-19
Many are understandably questioning why, as restaurants, hairdressers and barbers have reopened, they continue to face crippling economic uncertainty due to lack of adequate support.
Unfortunately, this feeling of abandonment within the sector is not new: 80% of those working in the beauty industry have felt unsupported throughout Covid-19 according to a survey by the British Beauty Council.
Over 590,000 jobs are linked to the beauty sector. Beauty services contributed over £7 billion in tax revenues in 2018, and there is evidence that the beauty industry contributes more to the economy than motor manufacturing.
But these contributions are all but ignored by the prime minister, who poked fun at the industry at a recent prime minister’s Questions. When William Wragg MP asked about the future of the beauty sector in his constituency, Johnson jokingly responded that he hopes “one day I will be going with him to Lush beauty” to raucous laughter from the backbenches.
As one of my constituents who owns a beauty salon put it, the prime minister’s comments made her feel as though “we are seen as little more than a little wives’ club, despite been one of the biggest contributors to the economy since we are a multi-billion pound industry. We are predominantly a women’s industry and most of us are struggling to even feed our kids and family every single day; we are constantly worrying about how to pay our rent, electricity, water.”
In its decision to restrict services in the beauty sector, the Government has put at risk thousands of jobs many of which are held by women, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in particular.
More must urgently be done to recognise the hardships faced by women in the beauty industry.
Easing lockdown cannot be done unevenly or unfairly – and the Government must explain why it has chosen to impose such restrictions on the beauty industry but not in other male dominated sectors. The Government must also act now to conduct an equalities impact assessment on its decision to only partially open beauty services.
Women have been the heroes of this crisis: making up 77% of workers in high risk roles and taking on the burden of unpaid caring responsibilities. But the Government has consistently failed to mitigate the devastating effects of this crisis on them, including those in the beauty sector.
Marsha De Cordova is the Labour MP for Battersea and shadow secretary of state for women and equalities.