Prioritise the young to drive economic recovery – CBI

CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn wrote to the Prime Minister this week. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images

The Confederation of British Industry has urged Boris Johnson to make job creation, skills training and opportunities, especially for young people, the top priority for the UK’s economic recovery.

Redundancies will rise fast over the autumn as support schemes, especially the Jobs Retention Scheme, wind down. Past recessions show the impact of joblessness is deeply uneven” – Dame Carolyn, CBI

In a letter to the Prime Minister, CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn has praised the way government, business and unions have worked together during the coronavirus crisis.

“Amidst all the uncertainty,” wrote Dame Carolyn, “one thing is clear: the UK will only build back fast and better through a market-driven plan that supports sustainable growth. Dynamic enterprise is the only way to unleash the potential of our country. It is also our opportunity to get ahead.”

The CBI decribes unemployment as the “biggest threat to livelihoods and laid out an ambitious health-first recovery plan that would help secure a “jobs-rich, fair and sustainable future” for the UK economy.

Dame Carolyn urged the government to make job creation, skills training and opportunities, especially for young people, the top priority by transforming Job Centres into new “Job and Skills Hubs” to help create dynamic, local labour markets. She suggested a future skills fund to support areas with high job potential such as digital, low-carbon and health and proposed greater flexibility into the apprenticeship levy to help school leavers get into work.

Investment should be made in the green economy to create new jobs and a more sustainable future, including proposals for a national programme to make every home a green home; bringing forward funds committed to green infrastructure, like electric vehicle charging points; and accelerating the gigabit broadband roll-out in all parts of the country including rural areas.

The CBI also suggested targeted financial support to kick-start consumer demand and “unleash” UK competitiveness, including a time-limited scrappage scheme to incentivise electric vehicle use; extending business rates relief to mid-sized business in all sectors to reduce fixed costs; and an end-to-end review of regulation to accelerate key projects.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, Dame Carolyn wrote: “The last few months have seen a nation rightly and relentlessly focused on health. That will remain the case for some time. But this must not stop the country from to implementing an ambitious economic recovery plan.”

She added: “A world class test-and-trace system is the foundation for a UK that is safe to visit, invest in, work and study in. Two other priorities also stand out: jobs, especially for young people; and investment.

“Redundancies will rise fast over the autumn as support schemes, especially the Jobs Retention Scheme, wind down. Past recessions show the impact of joblessness is deeply uneven.”

Yesterday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicted that the UK faces one of the worst economic outlooks among developed countries, with unemployment forecast at reach 7.2% in a “single-hit scenario” or 9% in a “double-hit” where we have a second wave of coronavirus and a tighter lockdown.

“Without immediate intervention, pre-crisis inequalities across regions, gender and race will worsen,” wrote Dame Carolyn. “Long-term unemployment will leave generational scars. And business investment will need to bounce back fast to create the jobs of the future.”

The CBI said that Dame Carolyn will also be writing to the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, urging leaders of all nations to unite in prioritising job creation, fairness and sustainability to secure a fast economic recovery in all parts of the UK.

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