The Conservative Government under the leadership of Boris Johnson has had a distinctly dreadful approach to the CovId-19 pandemic. Since their initial stumble, the government has unveiled a patchwork of policies to support industries, particularly the financial sector, then almost as an afterthought, a further patchwork of policies to support workers, a novel concept for Conservatives. Yet it seems that these people centric policies are quite threadbare and the result will be a whole raft of winners and losers both in terms of financial and health outcomes.
Winners and Losers
The following is a review of job type by social grade and it illustrates that over 50% of the working population cannot work from home with only a third of the self-employed able to keep working, (assuming, that is, there is enough economic activity to keep them going).
- Employed people in AB and C1 grades (Management, professionals and adminstrative) are winners both in terms of finances and health outcomes.
- The 66% of the self-employed and most of the C2 and DE grades, skilled manual labour and unskilled – which is some 40% of the workforce – will either be worse off financially, having to apply for Universal Credit, OR will be on the front line of the Cornavirus pandemic.
Social grade statistics are given below.
This is an estimate of the potential for homeworking for employed and self-employed people at different social grades based upon the availability of communication systems that would allow home working and the types of jobs involved.
The Office of National Satistics provides the total size of the UK workforce as 31,800,000 and the proportion of self-employed as 15% of the total. This figure is applied (not quite realistically) across all social grades to provide the following pie charts. The AB are Dark Blue – winners – they can work from home – except if they are self-employed! The DE are light blue and C2 are yellow – they can’t work from home – serious losers – either they are on the front line or financially impacted. The tourist industry including pubs, hotels etc accounts for about 3 million (10% of the workforce). The Government have given them special support (80% of salary). So the remaining C2 and DE will either be employed on the front line at low wages or they will be queueing for Universal Credit.
And this says nothing about the economically “inactive”, retired, disabled, students or those people caught in the gig economy (at least they are probably used to the internet world).
Using the numbers and proportions given above, over 50% of the working population cannot work from home with only a third of the self-employed able to keep working, assuming there is enough economic activity to keep them going.
This probably does not say anything new. But it does say it with pie charts. Even the BBC (now finally) are pointing out that the poor are losing out while the rich sit around.
Front Line Thanks
Obviously the people on the front line have guarenteed jobs but their health is at risk. Many are working without adequate PPE. A round of thanks must go to:
- Health workers (Doctors, nurses, paramedics and all ancillory workers)
- Local Council services including Social Care workers particularly the elderly or supporting the sick and disabled in society
- Food and drug industry including retail and delivery services (including mail and parcels)
- Public transport, electricity, water services, telecommunications
- Cleaning services and refuse dispoal
- Security services (Police, Armed Forces, Fire brigade, Prison Services etc)
These people all deserve immediate pay rises and recognition. No doubt there is a list of other people that haven’t been mentioned here. Contributions welcome.
Suggestions for future policy provided here