The CoVid-19 pandemic has awoken many to the role that key workers play in our society. But who exactly are they, and what do we know about them? This short article provides a summary of analysis carried out using pre-crisis Labour Force Survey data to help give us a basic understanding of this group of workers.
On Tuesday we saw a glimpse of the impact of the initial shutdown on the labour market and claims to Universal Credit. Because of the nature of the shutdown, it is affecting some sectors more than others and indeed leading to increased demand in some.
Given the different industrial profile across Scotland, we would therefore expect this to translate into a differential impact across Scotland. Because of when data is released, and especially the lag in sub-regional UK being made available, we are seeing different numbers of people seeking financial support through Universal Credit in different parts of Scotland without being able to delve too far into exactly why. For example, we don’t yet have official data that can tell us what happened to different sectors in Scottish local authorities in at the start of the lockdown.
However, understanding what is happening across Scotland as soon as possible is important as it may give important insight into where particular support needs are, hence these figures are worthy of analysis even if the data can’t be fully explained . This article looks at the changes in the number of people on in Scottish Local Authorities on Universal Credit between March and April 2020 using data released by the DWP.
This morning the ONS released the latest data from the Labour Force Survey. This is the main source for high quality data about what is happening in the labour market in the UK, and the regions and nations.
Today’s data cover the period up to the end of March, and so include the initial period of lockdown in the UK following in late March.
Data from DWP on new claims and new starters onto the main out of work benefit, Universal Credit (UC), were also released this morning. They cover broadly the period to mid-April and give us an indication of those turning to the social security system for support following a drop in their earnings in the first few weeks of the lockdown.
This article provides an overview of what this data tells us so far. Overall, we have seen a fall in employment, hours and pay and this has fed through to Universal Credit claims. As charts later on in this article show, some of the shifts that have happened in these data are unlike anything seen before. Undoubtedly, these figures would have been a lot worse without UK Government schemes, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), but even so, it appears that many households in Scotland are facing a significant financial impact.
As policies start to diverge north and south of the border, debate regarding the role of different governments in providing financial support to individuals and households may also start to gather pace.
There have already been calls to find ways to get more money out to children living in families on low incomes in Scotland from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland (CYPCS). Aware of the stresses and strains that lockdown is putting on families already struggling, the Commissioner’s plea is to ensure that more children aren’t pushed into poverty as a result, and to try and relieve some of the financial pressure of those already on very low incomes. Most children in poverty live in working households, so there is definitely cause for concern over incomes falling further due to job losses and/or reductions in hours.
The Scottish Child Payment is a benefit aimed to do exactly what the CYPCS is asking for – a national payment aimed at children in families on low incomes. Payments were due to start for some children later this year but have been delayed. This raises some questions about whether the delivery method chosen was the most appropriate, and whether alternatives would have been more resilient either to the specific Covid-19 issues this year, or to economic crises more generally.
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.