Coronavirus job losses may deepen regional inequality – Labour


People walking past Marks and Spencer storeImage copyright
PA

Image caption

M&S is among the major retailers to announce big job cuts this summer

Job losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic will hurt some parts of the UK more than others and deepen regional inequality, Labour has said.

Areas with a high proportion of workers in struggling sectors, such as aviation, retail and manufacturing, would be hardest hit, the party added.

Tens of thousands of job losses have already been announced and more are expected in these sectors.

The government said it was committed to “levelling up opportunities” in the UK.

Labour said its analysis of official data showed that more than 10% of the workforce in north west England was employed in retail – the highest proportion in the UK, followed by Wales and the North East.

The sector has been badly hit by the pandemic, with Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and John Lewis among the major retailers to announce job cuts over the summer.

According to the research, almost 13% of the East Midlands workforce was employed in manufacturing.

More than 8,500 workers have lost their jobs in manufacturing so far, Labour said, including at car firms in areas such as the West Midlands.

Meanwhile, the report said London was likely to be worst affected by redundancies in aviation and travel – sectors which previously employed more than 60,000 people, but have suffered from the impact of coronavirus.

‘One-size-fits-all approach’

Labour said the figures suggested the government’s blanket approach to ending the furlough scheme risked worsening regional inequality.

About 10 million workers have had their wages paid by the government through the scheme, designed to prevent mass redundancies, which will end in October.

The party has repeated its call for the government to implement a more tailored withdrawal of the scheme.

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “We are in the midst of a jobs crisis right across the UK but these figures show certain areas are more at risk than others.

“The government’s one-size-fits-all approach will see some communities hit harder and they must adopt a more tailored approach now if we are to avoid further job losses.”

But a spokesman said the government had acted quickly to deliver one of the most generous and comprehensive support packages in the world at a cost of £160bn.

“This includes supporting nearly 9.6 million jobs through the furlough scheme which employers across the UK have used to support their staff.”

He added: “The government will not be blown off course in its commitment to levelling up opportunities across the UK – investing in education, technology and measures to support and create jobs.”

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