Post-Covid, the state can help workers find new jobs in blossoming sectors when old jobs in obsolete ones wither away
Last August, Rishi Sunak was so confident that Covid was banished he said the furlough had to go. About 4 million workers would have either been forced to return to their jobs or found they had no job at all. “It’s wrong,” Mr Sunak told the BBC, “to keep people trapped in a situation and pretend there is always a job that they can go back to.” But it was Mr Sunak who was wrong. The pandemic was not over. A new, more transmissible Covid variant would soon appear. By October 2020 the furlough was back. Such an experience ought to chasten a politician. But that does not appear to be the chancellor’s style. He talked last week about the economy “bouncing back”. The furlough, he says, will disappear by the end of September. Is Mr Sunak once again tempting fate?
Britain has eased pandemic restrictions, but the country is not out of danger. A more virulent Covid strain could emerge. Mr Sunak, however, is betting that vaccine coverage and booster shots will allow Britons to live with the virus. The chancellor can also draw comfort from the Bank of England, which believes that mass layoffs have been averted and unemployment has peaked. The first week of August saw 1.7m active job ads, while 1.9 million people are on furlough. For some this will mean higher pay and better benefits. It may just be catchup. Half of British workers suffered a real-terms pay cut last year despite a sharp rise in average earnings.
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