Poverty Warning as Young, Low-Paid Worst Hit by UK Lockdown Over Coronavirus

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LONDON – A union organization warned against rising poverty as a report suggests young and low-paid will be worst affected by business shutdowns during the crisis. Researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) noted that employees aged under 25 were about 2.5 times as likely to work in a sector in effective lockdown because of COVID-19, such as restaurants, shops and leisure, as other staff, Sky News reported.

It said the measure, to ensure social distancing, took in almost a third of all young workers, with a disproportionate amount of women working in retail.

“There is a remarkable concentration of younger and lower-paid workers in the sectors most affected by the current lockdown,” senior research economist, Xiaowei Xu, noted, adding, “Women are also more likely to be affected than men.”

“Fortunately, in the short run, many will have the cushion of the incomes of parents or other household members,” she stated.

“But for the longer term, there must be serious worries about the effect of this crisis on the young especially and on inequality more generally,” she noted.

The chancellor has announced a series of measures to support businesses, including guarantees to cover 80% of the wages of furloughed staff.

The TUC union organization demanded on Monday an “emergency” boost to Universal Credit, to help the jobless get through the coronavirus outbreak. It was revealed last week there had been a stampede of around 950,000 applications over the past fortnight when a figure of around 100,000 claimants is more normal for such a period.

The TUC argued that without an urgent increase to lift the basic rate above £94, unemployment support would be lower in real terms, than during the unemployment peaks of the 1980s and 1990s. The TUC’s suggestions included ending the five-week wait period by replacing emergency Universal Credit loans with emergency grants.

Its General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said, “Unions have worked closely with the government during this crisis to protect livelihoods, but there is still more to do.”

“People who lose their jobs must get the support they need to make ends meet and to get back on their feet. If we don’t urgently boost Universal Credit many risk being plunged into poverty,” O’Grady added.

“We need a social security system that can deal with the current pandemic and beyond. It’s time to start a national conversation about how we repair Britain’s safety net and help those who fall on hard times to bounce back,” O’Grady noted.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson responded, “Universal Credit is delivering vital support to millions of people in these unprecedented times, and from today payments will rise by up to £1,040 a year.”

“This government is committed to doing whatever it takes to help those affected by COVID-19 and has announced over £6.5bln of additional measures through the welfare system,” it added.

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