Returning to work – the unintended consequences of easing the lockdown

Attention is now turning to how to start to ease restrictions on lockdown to enable the reopening of more parts of our economy. As we have pointed out in a previous article, the economy can’t simply be turned off and on again and any restarting must not jeopardise public health. It is also important to recognise that for many workers and business owners there will be legitimate anxiety about returning to work.

In this article, we look at some of the barriers that may prevent individuals from returning to physical workplaces. For those who can continue to work from home, it is likely that they will be asked to do so for the foreseeable future. But this is simply not feasible for all.

There are three key issues that will affect whether people feel they can return to work and do so without jeopardising their own or other people’s health and wellbeing: ability to leave the home, being able to travel safely to work, and safety once at work.

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May 6, 2020

Emerging indicators of impacts of Covid-19 on the economy and households in Scotland

There is a great interest in data that can provide timely information on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the economy and ultimately the living standards and wellbeing of the population.

One of the challenges is that, unlike many of the health measures that can be used to track the impact of the virus (such as hospital admissions etc.), economy measures aren’t as straightforward to collect or interpret.

Indeed, and unfortunately, traditional economic statistics, such as GDP, often aren’t the most useful at such times. They are published with a lag, they are built upon ‘sectors’ as defined by national accounts rather than type of business activity (which is most relevant for social distancing), and they are subject to a greater margin of estimation error than normal.

Moreover, the nature of this crisis means that we will see large swings in such measures. It’ll be important to interpret them carefully and to avoid reading too much into one month or quarter of data, but instead to look at the longer-term trend.

For example there is usually a reasonable link between movements in aggregate output and in overall employment, but we know that GDP is taking a hit through the present crisis while its effect on employment (which we care more about in many ways) is being cushioned through the policy measures that have been adopted.

Traditional economic statistics also don’t measure things that might be of particular interest to policymakers at the current time, for example the risk of collapse and insolvency.

So instead, we have to rely upon different types of data and information gathering to build up a picture of the economy.

Here we produce a summary of some of the data for Scotland and highlight key gaps.

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May 5, 2020

Changes in working hours, causes and implications – an introduction to our new project

We have recently started a new year-long project to examine how patterns of weekly hours worked have been changing in recent decades, examine what factors help explain those trends, and to consider implications for poverty, inequality – and policy. Whilst the distribution of hourly pay receives a lot of attention as a metric and for the design of policy, the level and distribution of hours worked is just as important for issues as diverse as poverty rates to tax revenues.

The project is funded by the Standard Life Foundation. Although the project was conceived well before the Covid-19 epidemic took hold, we plan in due course to examine how working patterns are changing during the pandemic and (hopefully) the recovery. But in the meantime it is useful to consider what has happened in recent years. Past trends may shed light on how the labour market might respond to current and future economic shocks and policy responses and help us identify who is most exposed to challenging outcomes.

We plan to share some of our findings as they emerge. In the first of such articles, we outline some of the changes to male working hours over the past 25 years across the UK. Subsequent analysis will consider trends for females (who have experienced quite different trends) and at the level of households, as well as individuals. What do we find? Continue reading

May 4, 2020

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Oil and Gas Sector and the North East economy

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Oil and Gas Sector and the North East economy

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Stephen Sheal, Director of External Relationships at the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), and Shane Taylor, Research and Policy Manager for Aberdeen and Grampian Chambers of Commerce (AGCC),  joins Stuart McIntyre and Mairi Spowage to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Oil and Gas Sector and the wider North East Economy. Stephen and Shane discuss how the industry is coping through the pandemic, how government policy measures are being received in the sector, and what the future shape of the North East economy could be.

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May 1, 2020

Workers in the construction sector: who are they and what support may they need now and in the future

The construction industry has been disrupted enormously over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, not least because that vast majority of the workforce is not able to work from home. Whilst the official UK Government advice is for sites to continue to operate if work can be carried out at safe social-distances, the Scottish Government has advised all non-essential construction work to stop. This has meant site-closures across Scotland and, inevitably, drastically reduced activity in the sector.

We can’t say with any certainty the damage the pandemic will have on the sector. We do know, however, that the effects of any impacts will be widespread – on the latest available data, the construction sector is estimated to account for 5.8% of GDP and roughly 6.6% of employment, or around 177,000 people.

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April 30, 2020