Rishi Sunak has been urged to pump more than £15bn into job creation schemes at the autumn budget to protect 1 million people from unemployment after the furlough scheme comes to an end.
Warning that the jobs recovery from the coronavirus pandemic could be weaker than in any of the past three big recessions, the Learning and Work Institute said a dramatic shift in public investment was needed to stimulate employment and avoid lasting damage for unemployed workers.
In a report before the chancellor’s autumn budget, the thinktank, which is led by the former Treasury adviser Stephen Evans, said a £4bn wage subsidy scheme should be used to pay at least 20% of the wages of 500,000 workers in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy – such as hospitality and retail – after the furlough scheme ends.
It also called on the government to invest £7.6bn in social care, childcare and adult learning schemes to help create 270,000 new roles across the economy, and £3bn in insulating the UK’s draughty homes to create 320,000 green jobs and tackle the climate emergency. A further £1bn was needed to expand the Treasury’s kickstart job creation scheme to cover adults as well as 16- to 24-year-olds, it added.
The thinktank said employment had typically taken three to seven years to bounce back from previous recessions, but that the scale of the Covid-19 downturn and continued risks to the economy from a second wave in infections as well as the need to keep physical-distancing measures in place could lead to a slower recovery this time around.
The analysis comes as pressure mounts on the chancellor to extend the Treasury’s furlough scheme beyond the end of October. The Office for Budget Responsibility, the government’s economics forecaster, has warned as many as 1.25m jobs could be lost when the programme ends, after supporting as many as 9.6m jobs since its launch in March.
According to research from the Resolution Foundation thinktank which was also published on Thursday, young people in their early 20s were most likely to have been furloughed. However, it said the support scheme had benefited young, middle and older workers alike.
The Resolution Foundation said the government needed to extend a £20-per-week boost to universal credit into next year to support millions of households at risk of rising job losses this autumn. Not doing so would risk 6 million households seeing their income fall by over £1,000 from next April – at a time when unemployment is forecast to be at its highest level in a generation.
Evans, of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “We cannot protect every job, but nor will the economy naturally create enough jobs quickly enough for those losing their work to move into.
“To close the jobs gap, we need public investment to create jobs, measures to encourage employers to create jobs, and a new wage support scheme to protect jobs in sectors hardest hit by the crisis.”
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