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Researchers with young children ‘hit harder’ by Covid-19

Pandemic has compounded financial and work difficulties for academics caring for children, says Eurodoc

Young researchers who are parents are likely to suffer harsher consequences from Covid-19 than their childless peers, according to a position paper from the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers.

“Parents in academia are generally at a disadvantage; long working hours, considered the norm in academia, are not compatible with family life,” Eurodoc’s equality working group wrote in its paper published on 25 May, adding that Covid-19 had increased the strain.

The authors cited annual surveys of Max Planck Society doctoral candidates, which they said had found that parents were three times more likely than non-parents to finish their PhD theses on unemployment benefits or social welfare.

The group also noted a disproportionate effect on women. Data from journal submissions suggest that women’s academic output may have dropped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, presumably due to responsibilities outside work, such as childcare, the authors said.

Actions by governments so far “leave questions open” as to their impact. For example, a German law extending time-limited contracts by six months could help young researchers, the authors said, but they questioned how many early-career researchers would be put on government support schemes.