Green Jobs For All Report
Covid-19 has been an immense economic shock for the world, disrupting life on a scale comparable to the world wars. Its immediate consequences are still being felt, with unemployment rising across the globe, and countries now contemplating a second wave of the virus. But even as the immediate shock continues to reverberate, the likely long-term consequences are also becoming clearer. A viable vaccine, produced and distributed, is expected to at least reduce some of the long-term impacts – but it is unlikely to eliminate it entirely. Considerable efforts will still be required to create social distancing, monitor health through testing and tracing, and maintain higher levels of sanitation than we have been used to.
All of this will create costs for businesses, particularly those that depend significantly on human labour, like hospitality, and it is likely that at least some forms of employment will no longer be viable in the future. Using figures from the RSA on the exposure of different jobs to both the risks of long-term covid-19, and the risk of automation, and the proportion of jobs placed into furlough – taking this as a proxy for the future economic viability of a job – we estimate here that over 1.9m jobs are at risk of permanent loss from the long-term impacts of covid-19 – a scale comparable to “deindustrialisation” in the 1980s, which saw around 2m manufacturing jobs permanently lost, but this time taking place in service industries and with a different geographic spread. We further estimate that close to 1m jobs could be permanently lost within the next two years.
The need for government intervention to create jobs and support the economy is therefore pressing. But, as many have argued since the crisis broke – including the UK government – efforts to create new jobs should be focused on future need. There is an urgent requirement to both decarbonise the UK economy, in line with its international commitments, and shrink its environmental impact more generally, reducing (for example) its resource use and expanding the volume of material recycled and reused. Alongside this, the covid-19 crisis has once again exposed the perilous state of the UK’s care system, both for older people and across the system. Years of underfunding have placed incredible strains on the system as a whole, with future need projected to increase as the population ages. A recovery programme should also build in the need to address both the present crisis in care, and match future expected need.
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Using existing research on the green recovery programmes, including research published in the wake of the covid-19 crisis breaking out, we have provided UK-wide estimates for potential job creation from a programme of investment across the country, assuming that the government both intends to surpass its existing decarbonisation commitments, accelerating towards a net-zero date of 2030, and address the expected future demand for care. At a cost to government of £68bn, well inside the £190bn (and rising) that has already been spent on the crisis, and the £100bn infrastructure investment commitment they made, we estimate that a total of 1.2m jobs can be created in the UK inside the next two years, addressing both the environmental and social care crisis. This is sufficient to more than compensate for the shorter-term employment consequences from covid-19 (giving a net total job creation of nearly 245,000). With government borrowing costs at record lows, this is an ideal opportunity for the government to make serious, long-term investments in rebuilding the economy in the wake of covid-19.