Responding to the publication of “Levelling up: where and how?” by @TheIFS, Mike Hawking, Policy and Partnerships Manager (@jrf_uk) at the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:
“Work should offer a reliable route out of poverty and the chance to build a better life for our families. If the government is truly committed to levelling up this country then that route needs to be available wherever you live, so ensuring that a wave of unemployment doesn’t engulf whole areas and sectors has to be a national priority. Too many of us are already facing constant, grinding pressure and uncertainty about how to pay the rent, put food on the table or find the new jobs needed to offer hope for the future.
“Even without the pandemic and Brexit we would need tailored support to boost local economies and ensure that individuals can train for the jobs that are so sorely needed in parts of our country. This report reinforces our belief that no one size fits all approach to levelling up will deliver the kind of transformation that is needed, and the Government must now set out how it will deliver on its pledge.
“This week’s announcement on lifelong learning is a good first step, but government must go further and invest more in basic skills and retraining, in new high quality jobs, and ensuring that families have the lifeline through the social security system to avoid being pulled under during the current crisis.”
JRF analysis in August identified the parts of Britain which will find it hardest to recover from the economic impact of the lockdown and which will need extra support to recover.
A Pre-Vaccine Jobs Risk Index produced for JRF showed that sectors such as hospitality, retail and beauty, which rely on close contact with members of the public but are not within the sphere of health, care or essential services are likely to be hit hardest by coronavirus until a vaccine is found. Around 40% of employees on the minimum wage face a high or very high risk of having their job destroyed by COVID-19 compared to less than 1% of those earning more than £41,500 per year. The full index and report are available here:
To keep families afloat, JRF has also been calling on the Government to do the right thing and keep the lifeline in the form of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit has been a lifeline for many families as they’ve struggled to get through the coronavirus storm – currently due to end in April 2021.
An ambitious plan is needed to deliver a good jobs recovery and the ‘Right to Retrain’ manifesto commitment to support workers’ transition into new opportunities.
JRF has been recommending:
- Deliver a new generation of good jobs by resolving the funding of adult social care to unlock more than 600,000 jobs by 2035; bringing forward £9.2 billion of investment for energy efficiency improvements; and reducing Employer National Insurance Contributions to stimulate private-sector employment.
- Delivering the ‘Right to Retrain’ commitment to support people to transition into new good jobs by creating a ‘New Deal for Adult Education’ worth £7 billion and delivering targeted employment support for those struggling to stay afloat.
- Take urgent action to prevent long-term unemployment by allowing furloughed workers who lose their jobs to access employment and training support immediately and introduce a Hiring Credit worth £3,000 for firms taking on people who have been out of work for more than 12 months.
- Provide additional support to level up the weakest economies with an ambitious UK Shared Prosperity Fund worth £14 billion.