Join the conversation on reshaping an economy that reduces poverty

We're half way through JRF's economic discussion series - Shaping a recovery that reduces poverty. We've looked at levelling up the economy, and secure work for those on low-pay. Join us as we look at social housing and providing a lifeline as unemployment hits.

Poverty deserves to be central to our debates about economic policy. Our discussion series aims to make this happen by bringing economists together and starting a conversation about how we shape the recovery from COVID-19 to work for those in poverty.

Over the last two months, we’ve presented new JRF research setting out recommendations for how we can emerge from this pandemic with an economy that offers everyone a route out of poverty. But it hasn’t all been about us. We’ve invited experts to join us, gathering ideas from think-tankers, academics and journalists and debating in a series of webinars.

We’re mid-way through the series, so what are the highlights so far?

Levelling up the post COVID-19 economy – we can’t afford not to

The series kicked off with a discussion on what COVID-19 means for levelling up the UK economy. JRF’s view is that it should be about tackling the twin challenges of productivity and living standards. The immediate priority is stopping these issues getting worse by focusing on job creation in the UK’s poorest and least productive towns and cities. Longer-term, reducing these geographic inequalities will require greater investment in skills, public transport, and the quality of work in low-wage sectors.

Tera Allas (McKinsey & Company) emphasised how the complexity of these economic problems means there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, and policies will need to be designed at a variety of geographies. She made the case for education being the number one policy priority.

The debate steered into the question of how the pandemic could change the geography of the UK’s economy, and therefore the levelling-up agenda. Andrew Carter (Centre for Cities) warned against economists trying to predict the future but reminded us that any decline in the UK’s cities would hit the poorest communities hardest, as they rely on the dense pool of urban jobs that home-working threatens.

Security for low-paid workers – a priority now for a more productive post-COVID economy

The second topic for discussion was whether providing workers with more security should be a policy priority in the coming economic recovery.

We said yes, and argued there was a strong economic case for providing low-paid workers with more security. Having a significant part of the workforce in insecure work not only traps many in poverty, it also limits the productivity of the UK economy. Delivering greater security can contribute to building a higher-skilled, higher-productivity economy.

Gavin Kelly (Resolution Foundation, Chair) said the first step to tackling insecurity has to be enforcement, making sure that every worker had the protections and benefits they are entitled to. Martin Sanbu (Financial Times) urged the UK to learn from other countries, especially the Nordics, and not be afraid to make business models that rely on cheap, insecure labour unsustainable.

You can watch both of the seminars on our YouTube channel:

So what’s next?

Tuesday 25 August - discussing whether now is the right time to invest in social housing to stimulate our economy and unlock people from poverty and homelessness

The third briefing in the discussion series argues that building social housing should be a priority now. Not only can it address the unaffordable and unsuitable housing available to low-income households, it can also provide a vital stimulus to the economy.

That’s JRF’s view, but on Tuesday 25 August we’ll open the debate to Vicky Spratt (The i Paper), Yolande Barnes (Bartlett Real Estate Institute), and Ian Mulheirn (Tony Blair Institute). Sign up here to join the webinar.

Tuesday 8 September – providing a lifeline as the unemployment storm hits

The final event in the series will set out new JRF research on the jobs and workers most at risk in the post-furlough labour market. We’ll propose a set of policies to support businesses and workers through this difficult next phase, before opening the floor to hear the ideas of other economists. Follow our events page and twitter for details on how to sign up.

Want to be part of this conversation? Join us this Tuesday for the next discussion.