The global pandemic and seismic economic shifts that have followed it are changing Britain’s labour market. While companies are struggling to recruit, many jobseekers lack the skills needed to fill the vacancies that are out there.
Headline unemployment is low, but 1.7 million are still dependent on welfare because they are searching for work. Brexit has stemmed the supply of overseas labour from the EU, making ever clearer the need for employers to invest in upskilling the UK workforce.
Quality of work remains a long-term problem for Britain. In the decade prior to Covid-19 our economy experienced a much reported “jobs miracle”. But dig beneath the surface and many of the jobs created in this period were of lower quality. Lower-paid, lower-skilled jobs are also spread unevenly across the UK, with the country becoming ever more regionally unequal over time.
Big challenges therefore lie ahead: Upskilling UK workers for the post-pandemic economy is becoming nothing short of a national emergency. The long-term target of geographical levelling up must mean a bigger role for public policy in bringing better jobs to people’s communities so people can thrive in work wherever they are born. And a renaissance in apprenticeships and technical training is imperative to ensure British workers have the skills to meet the needs of employers.
Creating a more balanced economy and stronger, fairer jobs market across the whole UK is absolutely essential if Britain’s long-term challenges are to be met, and if government is to succeed in building back better.