Nurses could pay the price of care after the pandemic

Nurses could pay the price of care after the pandemic

Academics in the Centre of Diversity Policy Research and Practice (CDPRP) at Oxford Brookes University say that research is needed to ensure the detrimental economic impact of the health crisis does not fall disproportionately on women.

Earlier this year a study commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing, carried out by RCN and Oxford Brookes University, found that nursing is undervalued both in terms of status and pay, due to the perception that caring for others is a feminine characteristic.

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the significance of this report. Nurses were identified as critical workers and the nation showed its appreciation with weekly claps for key workers, however, the UK government suspended gender-pay gap reporting.

Women are often worse off after pandemics

Dr Anne Laure Humbert, Director of the CDPRP and one of the report’s authors said: “We know that during and after pandemics, women often fare worse economically, for many reasons. Understanding what work we value as a society - including caring professions like nursing - can help us to avoid this.”

The research showed that on average, across all health professions, women earn 30% less than men, and nursing is at the lower end of those professions.

“Our research uncovered the fact that BAME nurses earn 10% less than their white colleagues when controlling for other factors such as working hours – something of great concern, not least in the context of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected BAME healthcare professionals,” added Dr Laure Humbert.

‘Nurses are paid equally - but badly’

The report analysed the extent to which the gender gap in earnings is due to structural factors, such as working hours, or the result of sex-based discrimination.

Dr Laure Humbert explains: “The most surprising thing we found was that for nurses, unlike for other health professionals, there is no evidence of discrimination on the basis of sex. Rather, it is the gendered construction of nursing – the way it is devalued as a feminised, caring profession – that accounts for the suppression of wages. In other words, nurses are paid equally – but badly.

“At Oxford Brookes Business School, we intend to continue our research in this area, applying more refined analysis, a wider range of measures and creating evaluation tools. It is important that in the post COVID-19 world we improve transparency and fairness.”