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ALMOST two million people have not worked for at least six months of the pandemic, and a further 2.6 million expect to lose their jobs within three months.
A new study by the Resolution Foundation think tank into the state of the UK labour market as a result of the crisis has uncovered the staggering extent of unemployment and furlough across the country.
It also warns that unemployment rates are predicted to grow when government support schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), come to an end.
According to the latest data the number of people in Scotland receiving support through the furlough scheme was 282,800 at the end of December – a rise of 54,500 compared to the month previous.
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The Foundation has argued ahead of the Budget next month the Chancellor should set out a plan to phase out the CJRS “that is sensitive to public health restrictions and the sectoral nature of the crisis.”
Their report suggests the full CJRS should be kept on for “several months” after the public health restrictions are lifted to give companies time to bring staff back and it should remain for the sectors still subject to restrictions, such as hospitality and leisure.
When it is phased out, it should be done so gradually be increasing the number of hours people have to work in order to qualify for support.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 11, 2020. See PA story POLITICS Budget. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire.
Researchers surveyed 6,389 18 to 65-year-olds between January 22 and 26 this year across the whole of the UK before analysing their findings.
Along with the length of time people had been furloughed, the study also found that those who had been furloughed for six months or more were much more likely to fear being made redundant, or have already been told they will be, in the next three months.
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Around a fifth (21%) of people on long-term furlough said they were expecting to, or have been told already that they will, be made redundant by May compared to around 8% of all workers.
Of those employed in the shut-down sectors such as hospitality, retail and leisure, 16 per cent were expecting to be out of a job in the same time period, compared to just 6 per cent of those in other sectors.
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 18: Members of the public walk through the Merchant City prior to level four restrictions coming into place later in the week on November 18, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. More than two million people are to be placed under Scotl
More BAME workers (11%) said they were worried about being made redundant, or had been told they would be compared to their white peers (8%) while young people (12%) and low paid workers (16%) reported being in the same situation – more so than those older or in higher paid jobs.
The study, which was done in conjunction with the Health Foundation, comes ahead of the Budget on March 3.
The Foundation has warned that impact of the crisis on the jobs market will “continue to build” when schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) comes to an end.
Their report states: “With the pandemic having now lasted for nearly a year, the impact on the labour market has continued to build.
“7 per cent of workers have already stopped working since the start of the pandemic, but unfortunately, this will not be the limit of job losses: both the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Bank of England expect unemployment of more than 7 per cent when the Job Retention Scheme ends.”
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Nye Cominetti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Ten months into the crisis, almost two million people have now been affected by long Covid in the labour market, having not worked for at least six months.
“And while the UK’s economic prospects are finally looking up, job insecurity remains high, particularly among those who have spent long periods not working, or who are currently furloughed.
“The Chancellor must use his Budget to set out his own roadmap for phasing out the furlough scheme gradually and in a way that acknowledges where the risks of rising unemployment are highest – in sectors like hospitality.
“This would keep a lid on rising unemployment and encourage firms to bring back existing workers, while tax breaks on hiring could help more people to move jobs too.”
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Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said there must be a “smart extension” to the furlough scheme “that includes training to help the long-term furloughed build new skills while they are unable to work.”
She added: “We’ve called for an overhaul of the Government’ failing Kickstart youth jobs scheme to help our young people back into employment, and we’re urging the Chancellor to bring forward £30 billion in capital investment over the next 18 months to support the creation of 400,000 new jobs of the future.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “Throughout this crisis, we have done all we can to support jobs and livelihoods, spending over £280 billion in response to the pandemic.
“We’ve already extended our furlough scheme through to April so that people have certainty that help is in place.
“We will continue to invest in protecting and creating jobs through the remainder of the pandemic and through the recovery, and we will set out further details via the next stage of our Plan for Jobs at the upcoming Budget.”