The COVID-19 storm has affected us all, but the economic impacts of the pandemic have fallen hardest on those who were struggling to stay afloat. Across the country, previously sustainable businesses are being hit doubly by necessary public health interventions to control the pandemic, restricting trading capacity, and the early stages of a recession which is limiting some people’s spending power. The wave of unemployment that is anticipated will likely pull more people into poverty or deeper hardship.
With a challenging winter ahead, economic policy attention is beginning to look beyond the immediate consequences of the pandemic and what kind of recovery we want to build. Calls to Build Back Better have been made across the political spectrum, but it is local areas leading the way in defining what that means for their communities, with ambitions to deliver more inclusive economic outcomes for citizens.
The ambitions for more inclusive local economies are built on an understanding that our economy simply wasn’t working for large numbers of people prior to the pandemic. Despite record employment rates, work was not providing a secure route out of poverty for many, with one in eight workers experiencing in-work poverty. The increased use of less secure contracts, a lack of progression opportunities from many lower-paid roles, and other barriers such as access to affordable transport and childcare all contributed to this. Poor quality work was also harming the UK’s economic performance by limiting the contribution of those workers to the labour market and dragging down productivity.