ICAEW chart of the week: UK population in lockdown

3 July 2020: Only a fraction of the population was working at their normal workplace during the Great Lockdown, but what will happen as businesses start to re-open and the furlough scheme becomes less generous?

UK population 67m: workforce 34m (working at workplace 9m, working from home 10m, furloughed 12m, unemployed 3m); outside workforce: children & students 16m, retired 12m, other inactive 5m.

The #icaewchartoftheweek takes a look at the workforce this week, illustrating how the lockdown has transformed the world of work over the last three months.
 
Our (admittedly) back of the envelope calculations based on ONS and HM Treasury data suggest that only around 9m of the 34m strong workforce have been working normally at their ordinary places of work during the lockdown, with somewhere in the region of 10m working remotely. In addition, just under 12m workers have been furloughed, comprising 9.3m employees on the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) and 2.6m self-employed on the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS).
 
Unemployment, which was around 1.2m back in February, has jumped to an extrapolated estimate of around 2.7m by the end of June and is likely to grow still further as the furlough scheme becomes less generous from 1 July. The ONS’s experimental claimant count metric, which includes a wider group of workers needing financial support from the state, had reached 2.8m by the end of May and is expected to have exceeded 3m by the end of June.
 
The overall workforce of 34m excludes the 33m ‘economically inactive’ half of the population, comprising 16m children and students, 12m retirees and 5m other inactive individuals. The 2.1m students over the age of 16 included in this category excludes around 1m or so students with part-time work or who were looking for work prior to the lockdown who are included in the workforce numbers, while retirees include around 1.2m below the age of 65 who have taken early retirement. Other inactive individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 include 1.8m homemakers, 2.3m disabled or ill, and 1.1m not working for other reasons.
 
These numbers are a moving target as more workers will start to return to their normal workplaces over the next few weeks as the economy starts to re-open, even if many continue to work from home where they can. More worryingly, unemployment is likely to rise significantly with the furlough scheme requiring an employer contribution from July onwards and when it comes to an end in October.

This #icaewchartoftheweek was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the month: Cabinet government

26 June: The prime minister has announced a reduction in the number of government departments. How big is the cabinet compared to the rest of the world?

The news that the UK Government is reducing the number of government departments by one prompts the #icaewchartofthemonth to take a look at the size of government executives across the world.
 
As the chart highlights, with 26 members, the UK cabinet is one of the largest amongst major economies – comprising the prime minister Boris Johnson, 21 department ministers and four ‘ministers attending cabinet’. This does not include the Cabinet Secretary or other officials, meaning that cabinet meetings generally involve more than 30 people in total.
 
Compare that with the more compact 16-member German federal cabinet (Chancellor Angela Merkel and 15 departmental ministers) and the ten-member Chinese state council executive (comprising the premier Li Keqiang, five vice-premiers and four other senior departmental ministers).
 
It is certainly much larger than FTSE-100 company boards, where the average size is 11, and very few listed companies have more than 16 board members.
 
There is some debate around whether reducing the size of the UK cabinet would be more conducive to effective government. Some suggestions that the merger of the Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to form the new Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in September is the first step on the way to that goal – with further mergers possible. However, although there will be one fewer departmental minister, there is a reasonable prospect of the minister responsible for development at the FCDO being invited to attend cabinet given its importance to the government’s global agenda.
 
Of course, merging departments is not the only way to achieve a slimmer cabinet – for example, the 31-member Russian cabinet (not shown in the chart) rarely meets as one body. Instead, there are regular meetings of the 10-strong prime ministerial group (the prime minister Mikhail Mishustin and nine deputy prime ministers) and occasional meetings of the 20-strong cabinet praesidium that includes the most senior ministers as well.
 
The UK Cabinet also works in this way to a certain extent, with critical decisions often being made in smaller groupings of senior ministers, such as the 9-member National Security Council, the 9-member Climate Change Committee or the 12-strong EU Exit Operations Committee for example. Canada, with its 37-member cabinet, also operates through a series of cabinet committees ranging from around 8 to 15 members. However, in both cases, the full cabinet still meets regularly and remains the formal executive body for authorising government actions.
 
With rumours of a cabinet reshuffle in the UK this autumn, it will be interesting to see whether moves to reduce the size of the cabinet will actually take place or whether we will see further development of cabinet committees as the places to be ‘in the room where it happens’.

This chart of the month was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Public sector employment

Headcount / FTEs - Health and social work: 1,925,000 / 1,657,000; Education 1,500,000 / 1,105,000; Public administration 1,056,000 / 897,000; HM Forces and Police: 402,000 / 391,000; Other 505,000 / 464,000.

The #icaewchartoftheweek is about public sector employment, illustrating how just under 5.4m people work for public bodies in the UK or around 4.5m full-time equivalents (FTEs). This is 16.5% of the total UK workforce of 32.8m as of last September on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

The largest employer in the public sector is the NHS, with a headcount of 1.7m out of the 1.9m who work in the health and social work sector (1.5m FTEs). Included in the million or so people who work in public administration is the 451,000-strong Civil Service (419,000 FTEs) with most of the remaining 605,000 working for local authorities and non-departmental public bodies (FTEs 478,000).

Total public sector headcount has started to increase again in recent years with NHS and non-NHS headcount up 6.8% and 0.6% respectively over a nadir of 5.2m three years ago (up 2.5% overall), compared with an increase of 3.8% and a fall of 12.1% respectively over the previous seven years (down 7.8% overall between September 2009 and December 2016).

With increasing demand on the NHS from more people living longer and the ‘end of austerity’ we should expect to see further increases in public sector employment over the next few years.

ICAEW chart of the week: Inflation

Chart: RPI 4% in Jan 2018, 2.5% in Jan 2019, 2.2% in Dec 2019. CPI: 3%, 1.8%, 1.3%. CPIH: 2.7%, 1.8%, 1.4%.

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on inflation this week, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that consumer price inflation fell to 1.3% in December 2019 – its lowest level for over three years and towards the lower end of the Bank of England’s target range of 1% to 3%.

Accompanied by very low levels of economic growth, this has prompted speculation that the Bank of England may cut interest rates at some point this year to try and stimulate the economy. They may also be hoping that plans to boost infrastructure spending will help kick-start the economy and encourage a tad more inflation at the same time.

The Chancellor is currently consulting on plans to converge the statistically flawed Retail Prices Index with CPIH (CPI including housing) over the coming decade. This will be good news for commuters and some students, given RPI’s use in calculating fare increases and interest payments. However, it will be less good for many pensioners and holders of government debt who currently benefit from higher rates.

ICAEW chart of the week: Q4 retail sales

Chart: 2018 Q4 retail sales £121.3bn + inflation (1.4%) £1.7bn + sales growth (0.9%) £1.1bn = £124.1bn 2019 Q4 retail sales.

Concerned about the state of the UK economy? Then the latest retail sales numbers will not have helped, with fourth quarter sales in the UK mainland just 0.9% higher after inflation over a year earlier, as illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek.

With population growth still estimated to be running at around 0.6% a year, this implies that retail sales per capita in Q4 (at around £635 per month) were just 0.3% higher after inflation than the same period in 2018.

Sales in Q4 of £124.1bn comprised £41.3bn on food, drink and tobacco, £21.3bn on clothing and footwear, £19.6bn on household goods, £11.5bn on automotive fuel and £30.4bn on other non-food purchases. On a per capita basis, this is equivalent to approximately £210 per person per month on food, drink and tobacco, £110 on clothing and footwear, £100 on household goods, £60 on automotive fuel and £155 on other non-food purchases.

This low level of growth on a year earlier reflects a slow-down in retail activity in the fourth quarter of 2019, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that Q4 sales were 0.9% lower than the third quarter on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

This will feed into fourth quarter GDP, which will not be good news for the Chancellor as he puts together what is being rumoured to be a radical first Budget in March – a weak economy will reduce his room for manoeuvre to reform the tax system while boosting public spending at the same time.

ICAEW chart of the week: A Single Market of 529m people

A chart comprising a colour-coded grid of 529 squares each representing 1m people in the Single Market.

2020 is likely to be an interesting year for many reasons, but in Europe all eyes will be on UK and EU negotiators as they attempt to agree a new trading relationship following the ending of the UK’s membership of the European Union at the end of this month.

As illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek, the UK is currently the third largest of the 32 members of the ‘European Single Market’, a trade bloc that comprises the 28 European Union member states and the four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members.

The UK appears be aiming for a more distant trading relationship than that it currently enjoys as a EU member or that enjoyed by the 4 EFTA nations (three of which are members of the European Economic Area and the fourth – Switzerland – which has a series of bilateral agreements to give it access to the Single Market). Despite that, there are still a wide range of potential outcomes ranging from no agreement through to a much closer set of trading arrangements across multiple industries.

From a trade perspective, nothing much will change on 31 January when the UK formally ends it membership of the EU as the UK will continue to participate fully in the Single Market (as well as the EU Customs Union) until the end of the year. It will only be on 1 January 2021 that any new trade arrangements will come into force, changing the way that people and businesses operate across borders.

For now, it is very difficult to predict what exiting the Single Market will mean for the 67m people in the UK or the 462m people remaining in the Single Market. However, one prediction that can be made is that there will be plenty of opportunities for wild – and no doubt contradictory – headlines as the negotiators set to work!

Germany83.2mBulgaria6.9m
France67.2mDenmark5.8m
UK67.1mFinland5.5m
Italy60.2mSlovakia5.5m
Spain47.1mNorway5.4m
Poland38.0mIreland4.9m
Romania19.3mCroatia4.1m
Netherlands17.3mLithuania2.8m
Belgium11.5mSlovenia2.1m
Czechia10.7mLatvia1.9m
Greece10.7mEstonia1.3m
Sweden10.4mCyprus0.9m
Portugal10.3mLuxembourg0.6m
Hungary9.7mMalta0.5m
Austria8.9mIceland0.4m
Switzerland8.6mLiechtenstein0.04m

ICAEW chart of the week: Post-GE2019 fiscal deficits

With the General Election now complete, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was able to release a restated version of its March 2019 fiscal forecasts this morning, reflecting technical revisions to the way the fiscal numbers are calculated, in particular that of student loans. This enables us to update the numbers set out our GE2019 Fiscal Insight on the party manifestos as best we can, given that the OBR has not deigned to include either the changes to public spending announced in the Spending Round 2019 nor the tax and spending changes in the Conservatives manifesto.

As illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek, the revised baseline forecast for the fiscal deficit is now £50bn for the current fiscal year, followed by £59bn next year in 2020-21, £58bn in 2021-22 and 2022-23 and £60bn in 2023-24.

It was frustrating that the OBR scheduled their publication of these revised numbers for the first day of the General Election purdah period making it vulnerable – as happened – to being pulled. A day earlier and that would not have happened! Ideally, these revisions would have been published as soon as practical after the publication by the ONS of their revisions to historical numbers in September.

It would have been even better if the OBR had been able to update their economic forecast too, given that the current baseline is still based on an economic and fiscal analysis from nine-months ago. With weak economic growth over the first half of the financial year, it is likely that the OBR will cut its forecasts for tax revenues over the forecast period when it does get round to updating them, resulting in higher deficits – even before taking account of suggestions that the Conservative GE2019 winners plan to announce a splurge of more capital expenditures in the Spring Budget in February.

Unfortunately, we won’t see an updated long-term forecast until at least July 2020, when the OBR is scheduled to publish its next fiscal sustainability report on the prospects for the public finances.

ICAEW chart of the week: General Election 2019

With voters in the UK going to the polls tomorrow, the #icaewchartoftheweek is on the political party’s plans for the public finances.

All the political parties are promising to increase taxes, public spending and investment, with the plan to eliminate the fiscal deficit now well and truly abandoned. 

The Conservatives are promising the least in terms of additional spending and investment, with £3bn a year extra spending in 2023-24, £8bn in extra capital investment and tax rises broadly offsetting tax cuts. However, this is unlikely to be the final result as they have deferred significant financial decisions, such as the funding of adult social care, until after the election. 

Labour is planning to spending much more with £83bn a year more spending by 2023-24, funded by £78bn tax increases and £5bn from higher economic growth. They plan capital investment of £55bn a year and £58bn in total over five years to compensate ‘WASPI’ women. This is pretty ambitious, leading the IFS and others to cast doubt on the achievability of their plans, while these numbers don’t include the additional borrowing from their plans to nationalise utilities, nor the borrowing of those businesses post-nationalisation.

The Lib Dem plans are also very ambitious, with £50bn extra a year public spending by 2024-25 funded by £37bn in higher taxes and £14bn in higher economic growth from cancelling Brexit. They plan to borrow an extra £25bn a year to fund new capital investment.

The Greens’ are planning to be even more ambitious, including completely reforming welfare provision with the introduction of a universal basic income, contributing to a £124bn increase in taxes and public spending (albeit some of this is a switch from tax deductions to cash payments). Their capital investment plans are the largest and likely to most difficult to deliver of all the major parties at £82bn a year on average over 10 years.

Unfortunately, none of the major political parties appear to have a fiscal strategy that extends beyond the next five years, with only limited measures to address the big financial challenges of more people living longer. This is disappointing given that relatively small actions taken now could make a big difference to the financial position of the nation in 25 years’ time.

ICAEW’s full analysis of the party manifestos can be found at icaew.com/ge2019manifestoanalysis.


You can be part of the conversation as part of ICAEW’s GE 2019: It’s More Than a Vote campaign.

ICAEW chart of the week: Age profile of monthly public spending

Chart: £902 at age 0, £1,505 at 10, £889, £618, £639, £742, £761 at age 60, £1,761 at 70, £2,246, £3,296, £3,515 at age 100.

With the General Election in full swing, the #icaewchartoftheweek is on one of the principal drivers of public spending: age.

As data from the Office for Budget Responsibility illustrates, public spending on the young increases as the population is educated, but then falls back to a low of around £600 per month at around age 28, after which spending per person starts to increase gradually over working lives until retirement age. From that point on, not only is there a significant increase in welfare spending as the state pension kicks in, but the costs of health care, and then adult social care start to increase dramatically.

With the number of people in the UK aged 70 or more expected to increase by 58% over the next 25 years, total public spending will increase accordingly, especially with all political parties promising to protect and improve the state pension, health provision and adult social care.

The number of people under the age of 70 projected by the ONS to increase by only around 2% over that same period, or potentially even fall by around 7% if net inward migration is lower than expected, while further cuts in public services are apparently off the table with the ‘end of austerity’. The implication is that taxes will need to rise, that social provision in retirement will need to be cut, or for there to be a resumption in austerity policies  (or a combination of all three).

Unfortunately, none of the major political parties appear to have a fiscal strategy that extends beyond the next five years, with only limited measures to address the big financial challenges of more people living longer. This is disappointing given that relatively small actions taken now could make a big difference to the financial position of the nation in 25 years’ time.

This election, voters have the opportunity to focus on the big challenges of sustainability, technology and the public finances. To find out more, visit GE2019 – It’s More Than a Vote.

ICAEW chart of the week: Public sector capital expenditure

Chart: Capex (real-terms) £61.5bn (3.5% of GDP) in 2009-10, to £64.1bn in 2011-12, down to £49.2bn (2.6%)  in 2013-14, up to £60.0bn (2.9%) in 2017-18.

With apologies for the delay because of being away, this week’s #ICAEWchartoftheweek is on public sector capital expenditure (capex), something that all the political parties in the #GE2019 have promised to increase – in some cases by very significant amounts! 

As part of ICAEW’s It’s More Than A Vote campaign, ICAEW will be analysing the political party manifestos over the next few weeks, including the potential implications for the public finances.

One area that all the major parties appear to agree on is the need to increase investment in infrastructure and other assets, which is why we thought we would look at the last nine years of capital expenditure reported in the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA), prepared under International Financial Reporting Standards. This differs from public sector investment in the National Accounts, with the latter including capital grants and other transactions that do not result in the creation of publicly-owned fixed assets.

As the chart illustrates, capital expenditure in 2017-18 of £60.0bn was lower than the £64.1bn incurred in 2011-12 after adjusting for inflation and to include Network Rail, the government owned railway infrastructure company prior to 2014-15 when it was incorporated into the WGA). As a proportion of the economy, capex in 2017-18 was 2.9% of GDP, a smaller ratio than the 3.5% calculated for 2011-12.

Only around £16bn (0.8% of GDP) of the amount spent in 2017-18 went into infrastructure assets (principally transport infrastructure such as roads and railways), with in the order of £24bn (1.2%) going into land & buildings, including hospitals and schools. Approximately £9bn (0.4%) was spent on military equipment, with the balance of £11bn (0.5%) invested in other public sector assets, ranging from tangible fixed assets such as plant & equipment, IT hardware, vehicles and furniture & fittings, as well as intangible fixed assets such as software.

Capex comprises a relatively small proportion of total expenditures (capital and non-capital) of £1.0tn reported in the WGA for 2017-18. As a consequence, even relatively small incremental amounts will constitute proportionately large increases in capital budgets in the next few years.

Whether these plans will be deliverable is another question, given that traditionally the government has struggled to spend all its capital budgets, not to mention the difficulties there will be in finding all the workers necessary for a major expansion in construction activity.

It’s More Than A Vote