The coronavirus pandemic has seen a multi-million increase in the number of Universal Credit claims, while others have faced months being supported by emergency schemes such as the furlough scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the risk of becoming unemployed will be a huge concern at this moment in time.
In November 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered a Spending Review, and he is set to announce the Spring 2021 Budget in March this year.
During his statement in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak addressed the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts.
“The OBR forecasts that the economy will contract this year by 11.3 percent, the largest fall in output for more than 300 years,” he said.
“As the restrictions are eased, it expects the economy to start recovering and growing by 5.5 percent next year, 6.6 percent in 2022 and then 2.3 percent, 1.7 percent and 1.8 percent in the following years.
“Even with growth returning, our economic output is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until the fourth quarter of 2022.”
The Chancellor added that despite the government schemes which have been implemented in 2020 in response to the covid crisis, the OBR expects unemployment to rise to a peak of 7.5 percent in the second quarter of 2020.
This works out at 2.6 million people.
Unemployment is then forecast to fall each year, reaching 4.4 percent by the end of 2024.
Meanwhile, concerns have been raised regarding additional challenges some members of the population may face in seeking employment in the near future.
Research from the over 50s jobs and community site Rest Less in August found nearly 200,000 overs 50s had dropped out of the workforce and become economically inactive since the covid outbreak.
Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, said at the time: “Age discrimination in the workplace was rife prior to the pandemic, and is only set to increase in the wake of the crisis.
“Older workers have powered UK employment and economic growth over the last 10 years: if we lose this generation from the workforce entirely, we risk losing valuable key skills and key workers from the workplace for good.”
He added: “The gender pay gap is at its widest for women in their 50s. Years of an earnings gap has led to a large pension savings gap between men and women which leaves many women in their 50s and 60s in a financially precarious position ahead of retirement.
“In a tough labour market, it can be much harder for people to return to the workplace if they have been out of the workforce for any length of time. Women are far more likely to have taken time out to care for children, parents or a relative than their male counterparts, placing them at a natural disadvantage to other candidates who never left the workforce.
“In the last recession of 2009, women could retire at 60. Today they retire at 66, meaning there are 2.4 million more women having to find work before they are entitled to claim their state pension.”
Employment concerns among those over 50 is an issue which Will Quince, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), was asked about during a recent interview with Express.co.uk.
He exclusively told this publication: “This is something that has concerned me, and I know it has concerned the ministers for Employment who lead on this issue.”
The minister went on to pledge his support for workers in this age group who find themselves unemployed, while highlighting some of the government schemes which have been announced.
Mr Quince continued: “What we’re doing directly in response is we’re doubling the number of frontline work coaches to help support more people of all ages through the pandemic.
“So we’re increasing the number of work coaches by around 13,000.
“I think we’ve already recruited about 4,500 of those to date, with many more in the pipeline and being trained up and ready to go.
“Their role is about helping people to find a job, to be trained or to gain vital practical experience.
“And whether it’s our support schemes – the income support schemes to the £2.5billion national skills fund, or the broader £30billion Plan for Jobs, we are absolutely there to help protect, support and create jobs for all workers.
“But I’m going to continue to work really closely with the Minister for Employment Mims Davies to make sure that those experienced workers are always front and centre of our mind, and we’re making sure that employers see the benefits and the huge asset that experienced workers are.
“Not just for those businesses but to this country more broadly.”