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?
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.