As the Chancellor stands up to make his ‘summer statement’ on Wednesday, families across the country will be facing up to the possibility of unemployment.
Yesterday, Pret-a-Manger announced it would be closing 30 shops, with the loss of 1,000 jobs. Last week, to take just one example, Airbus announced the loss of up to 1,700 jobs in the UK. British Airways are ploughing ahead with cuts which could lead to 12,000 job cuts. And the list is getting longer by the day.
The Chancellor has a chance to prevent the devastation of mass unemployment leading to the situation this country saw in the 1980s - young people left on the scrap heap, lives ruined, and communities decimated. But he needs to act fast and decisively. Here’s the TUC’s plan for decent jobs.
1. Introduce a real jobs guarantee – offering paid jobs for young people who face unemployment
We’ve heard that the Chancellor may invest in apprenticeships, or traineeships – unpaid work placements with some training attached. It’s not clear yet whether these will be voluntary, or how the Chancellor expects people to live while they’re undertaking these. The TUC has always opposed mandatory unpaid work placements. And unpaid work experience is no substitute for a real jobs guarantee.
We want the government to invest in supporting real jobs, paid at least the Real Living Wage, for young people facing the prospect of long-term unemployment. Government funding should support additional jobs in the public and private sector that support regional growth strategies, and provide real benefit, including helping to decarbonise the economy.
That jobs guarantee must go alongside a rapid redundancy response service and investment in jobcentres. And we desperately need an increase in social security payments to stop those who lose their jobs spiralling into debt.
2. Invest across the economy to create jobs
We know the country needs an infrastructure upgrade to help drive productivity, and urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. And after a decade of austerity, our public services are desperately overstretched.
Fixing these problems now can help create the jobs we need. Research for the TUC shows that an £85bn investment in green infrastructure could help create 1.24 million jobs in the next two years, including 500,000 jobs through building and retrofitting social housing, and almost 60,000 jobs in electrifying transport.
And we should support our public services by investing in jobs. There are over 100,000 vacancies in social care, and 100,000 more in the NHS – even before we deliver a better system. Local government saw 100,000 redundancies in the past decade, jobs that are needed now to deliver vital services and help tackle the pandemic.
3. Work with unions and business on new rescue plans for hard hit sectors
We’ve seen how the pandemic, and the social distancing measures it requires, has hit some types of business harder than others. Aviation and hospitality have been particularly badly affected. Government needs to come together with unions and businesses to design rescue packages for these sectors – including setting out how those plans can be used to deliver better and greener jobs.
The Job Retention Scheme has done valuable work throughout the crisis in protecting people’s jobs, and is now supporting many people to work part-time. Government should extend it beyond October for businesses that can show they have a viable future but need more time to get back on their feet.
4. Prioritise progress towards equality
We know unemployment is bad for everyone. But those who already face discrimination in the labour market often see their prospects held back even further. BME groups faced higher unemployment in the 2008-09 recession, and still have high unemployment rates.
Research shows that during upturns disabled people are the last to gain employment, and during downturns they are first to be made unemployed. With the childcare sector on the brink of collapse, women’s employment prospects face being put back a generation.
The Chancellor needs to prioritise progress towards equality when he sets out his plans. That means tackling the insecure work that leaves BME workers disproportionately having their hours cut or being let go. It means monitoring the impact of employment programmes on different groups. And it means the Chancellor needs to protect those who can’t work due to the fact they are shielding or have caring responsibilities from being forced out of work by extending the job retention scheme.
Mass unemployment and a new wave of inequality aren’t inevitable. We can build back better. But the Chancellor needs to be bold and act fast.
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