This briefing paper lays out the evidence base and priorities for any new work and training guarantee programme in the wake of coronavirus.
The on-going coronavirus crisis and reactions to it have been so severe that entire economies have become all but immobilised. As a result, there has been unprecedented increases in unemployment as employers themselves have cut payroll costs in line with plummeting revenues. The UK Government has already taken radical steps in the face of such dramatic change, including the creation of the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’. But there is also a case for innovation in the longer term.
Such reform may exist in the form of a Universal Jobs Guarantee – a social security policy whereby the state commits to providing stable, decently paid employment to anyone that wants it. Although it varies in form and implementation, its central principle is to minimise mass unemployment and reduce the economic and social scarring associated with it. This briefing paper provides an overview of the case for Universal Job Guarantee, and why it should be harnessed in order to build and implement an effective social security system for life on the other side of our current crisis.
Without such a scheme, the possible effects of long-term unemployment are manifold – both on individuals and on wider society. To reduce the scarring effect of joblessness and to support the long-term productive capacity of the UK labour force, we should use the crisis to reimagine employment support in the UK. There are many ways Universal Job Guarantee can improve the lives of the unemployed and the communities they live, as well as supporting the green economy. We recommend that a Universal Job Guarantee programme be urgently explored by UK policymakers.
Policymakers should develop a new Jobs Guarantee Scheme to ensure that the newly unemployed are not left inactive, but instead given jobs, with training, that pay the National Living Wage. A new scheme should be devised in line with the following principles:
- Training must be a central element. Participants should be given 20% of their working week for training and education. Work place training should be the priority, but spare capacity in universities could be utilised to offer distance learning to some participants.
- Private sector placements should be the priority. Employers benefiting from what amounts to free state-funded labour should be obliged to provide or source training for participants.
- Fill the low-carbon skills gap. The scheme should prioritise the roles and skills needed to deliver the UK’s Net Zero goals,especially the decarbonisation of home heating and the installation of charging points for electric vehicles.
- The scheme should be managed at a regional level. Local decision-makers, including local authorities, mayors and Local Enterprise Partnerships, should be centrally involved in management and oversight.