The OECD’s global outlook suggested that the reduction in GDP in the UK due to the current hit of coronavirus will have been the largest out of all developed economies. The enormity of the economic impact appears confirmed by the claimant count and other unemployment data out today. It seems that the slow and confused health response is being followed by a slow and confused response to saving jobs, despite the huge long-term costs of unemployment. Labour has called for an exit strategy, but what we seem to have is an exit without a strategy, including on jobs.
Will the Treasury change its one-size-fits-all approach to the furlough and self-employed schemes, which risks additional waves of unemployment? Will it act to encourage young people to stay in education and training, and out of unemployment? Will it build on previous schemes such as the future jobs fund to support the young unemployed, and provide tailored help for other hard-hit groups such as older workers?
Although more support for apprenticeships is desperately needed, it will not be enough. Will the Treasury act now to create the extra support that cannot currently be delivered by Department for Work and Pensions staff, who are occupied with huge numbers of extra claims? Will the Government catch up with other countries that have already announced their stimulus packages, given that many employers are deciding now on whether to retain staff? Will they apply conditions to Government investment to include requirements to promote upskilling and re-employment? Above all, rather than a limited Budget statement in July, will the Government set out the back-to-work Budget that we need, with a focus on jobs, jobs, jobs?