Jobs have been lost - commutes now as little as 2 minutes for some - Western free-market governments paid private businesses to pay wages - But still jobs were lost - The Lost World
Given the government's continuous promises to protect pay and conditions and promoting ways to improve opportunities and tackle skills shortages in the post-Brexit and post-Covid-19 world, the absence of an Employment Bill in this Queen's Speech is notable.
Jobs and opportunities for worthwhile, meaningful and fulfilling careers will require Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont to act using legislation concerning education, business and societal organisations. If the government can’t act in a post-Brexit-UK and post-Covid-19 world, then we need a different solution.
Talking about Covid-19, who’d have ever thought a virus so microscopic that is invisible to the human eye could cause so much chaos. In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), an adult T-Rex is accidentally released in San Diego causing havoc and chaos. The terror and fear of a creature which never existed alongside humanity on this planet makes for great movie-watching but then again so did the film, Contagion (2011), which no-one ever wanted to become today’s reality. We don’t ever want the former to be tomorrow’s reality; most of us, would rather not have the latter which is today’s reality either.
Some UK facts, fortunate or unfortunate (is up to you to decide) arising out of the past decade:
2016 UK holds an advisory referendum on its membership of the European Union with the electorate voting 52% in favour of leaving and 48% in favour of remaining the world’s largest trading bloc.
2019 UK withdraws from the EU with a transition period of one year to negotiate a trade deal about ongoing relations
2020 UK agrees a trade deal with the EU on virtually same terms it had when it had EU membership
2020-2021 UK enters lockdowns and introduces furlough (to be defined) because of Covid-19. Life now involves social distancing of 2m apart, rules of 6, no school or college exams for two years, face masks, jobs lost, youth jobs crisis and debate between returning to offices versus working from home (with commutes now as little as 2 minutes for some)*.
*Of course, the environmental benefits became evident quite quickly with the restrictions of non-essential travel being unlawful, stay-at-home orders, working from home adaptations because of lockdown reducing the need to drive fossil-fueled motor vehicles.
Consider the following scenarios:
A young college-leaver in Hackney with three siblings left sixth-form college in August 2019 with three good A-Level grades whilst doing two paper rounds every day of the week at his local corner shop. Incidentally, that corner shop became an off-licence in October 2019 and no longer sold papers. Also worth noting that Hackney is one of the most economically deprived areas in our nation's capital.
He used to give the money from half his round to his mum to help pay the food and household bills. Also, he had no idea what to do for a job after his A-Levels and has been on Universal Credit. He didn't have money to afford driving lessons and is entirely reliant on buses and the Tube. Shows up for interviews but gets rejected – each interview rejection is like a punch in the stomach, and every job rejection is another punch in the gut. He starts volunteering at the local hospice charity store, but there is no salary. His friend's dad is the cousin of the local pharmacist, so he's managed to get some voluntary experience as a pharmacist's assistant to help answer customer queries, but again, this is unpaid. Having applied to major supermarkets, high street stores and local businesses, he has had no luck finding paid work. He's now beginning to dread speaking to JobCentrePlus when he has to sign on next because they'll ask him about his job applications. He's applied for two apprenticeships – one a lab assistant and the other in pharmacy – got the interview one and rejected for the other.
Without some divine or government intervention, what precisely does anyone suggest he should do?
Their employer has poorly treated a graduate in their late-twenties without adequate access to any legal advice in a minimum-wage salary.
Not being in a graduate job for over a decade has put a strain on her finances, saving up, moving out of her parent's home and even attempting any relationship. Personal relationships for her are challenging, but that's a whole other story in itself. Seeing her friends in high-paying jobs, travelling the world, staying in friendly hotels, and buying their flats makes her crave independence and their lifestyle, which isn't likely when she can barely put £40.00 aside per month. Social media with pics of engagements and her friend's children doesn't help her either. She applies for, on average, three jobs every two days, rarely even gets anything more than an auto-acknowledgement email, and because she desperately wants a higher-paid job, gets highly flustered and worked up before any interview. Sometimes they don't even bother to tell her she's been unsuccessful after an interview – it seems pretty rude but all-too-common practice. Recruitment agencies barely help out – must have registered with over twelve.
All you see on TV is adverts for need a job, become a teacher when that's the last thing I'd do in the whole world. Searching for jobs stresses her out, and she's not sure she's searching correctly.
Friends and family don't know what to suggest to her. She doesn't know what work she can do with her qualifications or what to try.
Having watched plenty of US sitcom shows growing up, she's heard of career counselling, but when she went online searching for something similar in the UK – all she could find is someone offering her £200 per hour for career coaching. Another company provided a service for £129 to write her a CV and cover letter. On minimum wage, both were far too much money to risk not being able to pay rent, bills or go into further debt on her overdraft.
Without some systemic intervention, what solutions are there for this young woman still in the relatively early stages of her career?
Now turning back to the present day, despite furlough (formally known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme), 81% of around 811,000 permanent job losses affecting people born after 1986. The poor under-35 year-olds, some of which, have only just recovered from having graduated in the banking crisis recession that saw the collapse of giants like the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers as well as the loss of Woolworth’s from our nation’s hight streets just under a decade ago are feeling the brunt of the COVID-19 aftermath shockwave on jobs and livelihoods.
Again, this one voice as a UK citizen and patriot, in amongst the noise, is questioning the Prime Minister and the government he leads:
“What are you going to do to practically make a real difference to this mess?”
The country needs practical solutions in a post-Brexit economy and post-COVID-19 world that actually addresses social deprivation, lack of opportunity and the pressures of modern life. No-one chooses to struggle and surely any government needs to understand that poverty of income and opportunity is not someone’s active choice.
Yes, jobs have been lost, businesses are closed or closing, businesses are struggling to raise finance or struggling to make ends meet but, equally, individuals have also lost careers, have lost progression opportunities, can’t afford more qualifications and training (by the way, they don’t want more student debt either). We get it that jobs have been lost but what solutions are there for this problem. Repeating something that everyone knows that jobs have been lost doesn’t help people’s livelihoods and their lives.
It is often said that the first duty of government is to protect its citizens but surely the social contract is a little more than just that. In the UK, citizens should and do expect the government to manage the economy competently, spend public money wisely, set and collect taxes fairly, deliver public services such as the National Health Service, school and education system to protect health and promote learning and skills – all of which is to allow individual citizens opportunity to live in a free, fair and safe society. Governments all too easily like to remind individuals of their responsibility and enforce citizens to do what is necessary by laws but citizens are almost always forced to wait until the next election to hold government to account for whether government does what it should or does it properly. Don’t know about you but that hardly seems like a fair bargain to me – contracts tend to be: You do this, and I’ll do that.
One humble suggestion we argue is that it would be better if people came together to identify the gap, work together equally and fairly to offer and provide practical solutions to the problems of lost jobs because so many livelihoods have been lost and will continue to be.
Much like the Bank of England acts separately from government on interest rates, our judges act independently to protect the rule of law and protect all of us by determining if the law is complied with – we consider it is time for cooperative, democratic organisations to contribute to an independent voice on jobs, careers and business to provide opportunity for all. A single national Commission on Employment & Business, or even, devolved ones for each home nation of the UK; perhaps, even as localised as recognisable regions of each nation such as a different commission for London and the South East and another such commission for at the size of the English regions like Yorkshire, Home Counties or Cornwall and the South West.