Second coronavirus wave 'could leave 15% of people in the UK out of work'

7 July 2020, 12:41

Unemployment rates could reach nearly 15% if the UK experiences a second coronavirus wave
Unemployment rates could reach nearly 15% if the UK experiences a second coronavirus wave. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

A second wave of coronavirus in the UK could leave nearly one in seven people out of work in levels closer to the Great Depression than the financial crisis, according to new estimates.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that the national unemployment rate is already likely to reach a record high of 11.7% by the end of the year, and a second peak would make this even worse.

If the UK manages to avoid a new wave of COVID-19 infections, this rate could fall to 7.2% by next year - although this is still a huge increase from 2019's rate of 3.8%.

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OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria warned the "war has to be won and it has to be won fast" as he highlighted that deepening financial woes were caused by a lack of overcoming the illness.

He added: "We don't have vaccine and we don't have a medicine, we're impotent ... we're closing down the cities like they used to do in medieval times, because it's the only thing we know that works."

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OECD director of employment, labour and social affairs Stefano Scarpetta also warned that it had taken just months to return to unemployment levels equivalent to the peak of the 2008 crash.

He said: "I think we are talking about an impact on the labour market, which is unfortunately closer to the Great Depression more than the financial crisis - the impact is massive."

Last month, the OECD predicted the UK's GDP would drop around 11.5% this year, which could rise to 14% if a second wave hits.

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"These numbers do not convey the massive hardship that is implied by an increase in unemployment of this scale," Mr Gurria said.

"They mean large jumps in poverty, personal bankruptcies, depression, homelessness, crime. That's why policy responses must be timely, they must be ambitious, and they must be sustained."

"The young are once again at risk of becoming the biggest losers of the crisis."