Following the COVID-19 outbreak, it's vital we build an economy that provides people with secure incomes and opportunities to progress in work, wherever they live.
COVID-19 has shone a light on many of the divides in our society. Many of the one in eight workers in poverty pre-COVID-19 are key workers in social care, in supermarkets, or are delivery drivers. They have kept people cared for and fed throughout the lockdown yet are often low-paid and on insecure contracts.
Many other workers in poverty worked in businesses closed during the lockdown such as high-street shops, hotels or cafes and have been most likely to lose income from becoming unemployed or furloughed.
While some on higher incomes have built up savings as they’ve been able to continue working from home but have cut down on spending, many people in poverty have taken on debt to meet their living costs. Families’ experiences of the lockdown so far will have been very different if they’re in a house with a garden as opposed to an inner city flat.
These different experiences of the last few months reflect that our society was not in a good enough place before COVID-19. Heading into the crisis we had an economy with record employment rates, but 14.5 million people trapped in poverty, including 3 in 10 children.
We know that people in many parts of the country – cities, towns and rural areas – felt cut off from the prosperity of other areas, and too many people across the country have been trapped in low-wage, insecure jobs.
As we emerge from the health crisis and look to get the economy moving again, it’s not enough to aim just to rebuild what we had before COVID-19. We need to build an economy that provides people with secure incomes and opportunities to progress in work wherever they live, with more of their income left after paying their housing costs, and where people feel they share in our national prosperity.
This is why at JRF we are launching a new economic discussion series on shaping a recovery that reduces poverty. Our aim is to start a conversation. Offering everyone a route out of poverty is one of the central economic challenges our society faces. It deserves to be central to our economic discussions on how we rebuild our economy.
We will be presenting new JRF research and recommendations on how to reshape an economy that reduces poverty and getting ideas from a range of economic experts. There will be a number of publications and webinars throughout 2020.
The first event will focus on levelling up the post COVID-19 economy to unlock opportunities for people currently trapped in poverty. Future events will take on topics such as how to provide more security for low-income workers, how we can afford to invest in the affordable housing we need, and how to help people navigate the currents of a changing labour market in the months and years ahead.
Poverty deserves to be central to our discussions on economic policy. We hope that you will join us for this discussion.