Welsh economy minister warns country could witness ‘unemployment on scale not seen for decades’
A stark warning has been made that Wales could face “unemployment on a scale not seen for decades” due to the coronavirus.
Yesterday’s Labour Market Statistics suggest that employment levels have been maintained in Wales at 74.4% over the past three months.
However, Economy Minister Ken Skates said it is now accepted these will deteriorate as UK Government wage support schemes are reduced.
The Welsh Government has announced that is developing a support package offering everyone over 16 in Wales advice and support to find work, pursue self-employment or find a place in education or training.
It will also support employers to recruit and prioritise people who are most likely to be hit in the pocket by COVID-19, including young people, people from BAME communities and disabled people.
Mr Skates yesterday repeated his calls for the UK Government to provide further support for the more than 316,000 people in Wales who are currently furloughed.
He also asked for extra backing for the 102,000 self-employed people in Wales, who are accessing the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, to ensure they can return to work after the outbreak.
He said: “We know today’s Labour Market Statistics do not reflect the entire economic picture with economists predicting the full impact will not be felt until October.
“We are doing all that we can to mitigate the effects of this horrible disease and our £1.7 billion package of support means Welsh businesses have access to the most generous package of help anywhere in the UK.
“We are taking steps to do exactly that by developing a comprehensive package of support that will allow people to upskill and find new employment so we can protect a generation – and particularly the most vulnerable in our society – from the potential scarring of unemployment.
“If required, we will use up to £40 million from our Economic Resilience Fund to deliver this.
“We need to ensure this package will add value to any initiatives the UK Government might introduce and there is no duplication. This would be similar to the way our Economic Resilience Fund works.
“It’s also absolutely crucial that the UK Government provides further support for people who are currently furloughed and those at risk of losing their jobs.
He added: “The impact of coronavirus is vast and wide reaching but it could be a moment for fundamental change in our economy so we can build back better to ensure our future is fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable.”
At the end of March Mr Skates gave assurances that “if you had a good business in 2019, you will have a good business in 2021” when he announced a £1.4 billion package of business support.
However he acknowledged that all indicators now point to unemployment on a large scale.
He said: “These are, of course, incredibly challenging times.
“But this should be a moment for fundamental change in our economy, so that we can build back better and ensure our future is fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable than our past.
“We’ll also continue to call on the UK government to provide further support for the 316,000 people in Wales who have been furloughed and for the 102,000 are some people who have benefited from the self employment support scheme to ensure that they are able to return to work after the break is over.”
Mr Skates was pressed on his statement from March and was asked what the Welsh Government will do to help safeguard as many jobs in Wales as possible.
He said: “The first thing that could be done to protect those jobs is to avoid any sort of cliff edge in the support that’s offered through the job retention scheme.
“A second course of action could be for the UK Government to carefully consider the five recommendations of the UK Select Committee has proposed just yesterday. These will be hugely beneficial to thousands upon thousands of people.
“A huge number of businesses in Wales face the prospect of an autumn in which there is uncertainty regarding government support for their businesses, and considerable disruption and uncertainty being caused because of Brexit, there is a potential of a perfect storm if you’d like in the autumn, that must be avoided.
“UK Government must ensure that it offers that support to businesses that’s required to avoid the uncertainties, that could be faced by too many.
“Welsh Government will also do what it can to support businesses and people through these turbulent times.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com