Teachers less likely to die from Covid than doctors or care workers

Study finds that educators bear no more risk than other sectors of the economy

Teachers did not show increased mortality compared to other sectors of the economy. AFP
Teachers did not show increased mortality compared to other sectors of the economy. AFP

Security guards, factory workers, chefs and taxi drivers were among professions recording the highest Covid-19 death rates for men in England and Wales in 2020, according to a study published on Monday.

Teachers did not show increased mortality compared to other sectors of the economy, the figures showed, as ruling party MPs pressed the government for a plan to get pupils back into school because of growing fears over the impact on children missing daily education.

The highest death rates were among those who worked closely together or were in jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19, such as doctors and care workers, said the Office for National Statistics.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the pandemic has exposed “huge inequalities” in the labour market, with those in lower-paid jobs often forced to put themselves at risk.

The study examined nearly 8,000 Covid-related deaths from March to December last year among working-age people from 20 to 64, with two-thirds of those men.

For women, the highest rates of deaths were seen in production line jobs and among the caring profession.

Rates of death involving Covid-19 among male and female social care workers in 2020 were “statistically significantly higher” than those for the wider working population, the ONS said.

Among healthcare workers – including doctors, nurses, ambulance staff and hospital porters – men had a statistically significant higher rate of death involving Covid-19 (44.9 deaths per 100,000 males), while for women the rate was not significantly different (17.3 deaths per 100,000).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone should be safe at work. But this pandemic has exposed huge inequalities in our labour market.

“People working in low-paid and insecure jobs have been forced to shoulder much higher risk, with too many losing their lives.

“The government urgently needs to beef up its workplace safety guidance and get tough on employers who put their workers in harm’s way.”

Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two-thirds of these death

Ben Humberstone, ONS

Unison union general secretary Christina McAnea said the government must guarantee proper pay for care workers who are ill or are having to self-isolate.

“Sick or self-isolating care staff and home care workers still feel forced to attend work by shameless employers,” Ms McAnea said.

Ben Humberstone, ONS head of Health Analysis and Life Events, said: “Jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population.

“Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two-thirds of these deaths.”

The figures do not necessarily prove that rates of death are caused directly by differences in employment, however.

“As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most,” said Mr Humberstone.

"There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death: from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions. Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving Covid-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”

Updated: January 25, 2021 06:07 PM

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