Brits' 30b plan to help firms keep staff and hire trainees

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 10 Jul 2020

The British government has committed 30 billion (HK$294 billion) to saving jobs and helping the young find work in an economy ravaged by the coronavirus.

Delivering a mini-budget to Parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced help for firms retaining staff and taking on apprentices, investment in eco-friendly jobs and even allowing Britons to enjoy discounted meals in some restaurants.

Noting that "people are anxious about losing their jobs, about unemployment rising," Sunak said: "We're not just going to accept this."

The budget pledges 2 billion to subsidize placements for 16- to 24-year-olds from lower income families.

But Sunak insisted that the government's furlough scheme already in operation to protect millions of private-sector jobs had to end in October as planned. The government has been paying up to 80 percent of salaries for some nine million workers.

Britain has suffered Europe's deadliest virus outbreak, with nearly 45,000 deaths and the worst economic downturn among the G7 leading industrialized states.

Sunak, a 40-year-old former Goldman Sachs analyst five months into his job, said the British economy had contracted by 25 percent from one of Europe's longest lockdowns - "the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years."

The chancellor also confirmed 3 billion of green investment. The package includes 2 billion in grants for households to insulate homes to make them more energy efficient and 1 billion for public-sector buildings.

The plan is part of a pledge to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

"People need to know that although hardship lies ahead, no one will be left," Sunak said.

Britain is in the final stages of rolling back coronavirus restrictions imposed in March, starting with the hospitality and tourism industries.

Since the crisis began, the Bank of England has pumped cash stimulus worth 300 billion into Britain's economy and slashed its main interest rate to a record low 0.1 percent.

But Labour finance spokeswoman Anneliese Dodds said the economy would be stronger had Prime Minister Boris Johnson made fewer mistakes fighting the outbreak.

The head of Britain's CBI business lobby, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the job retention plan will help some workers, "but with nearly 70 percent of firms running low on cash more immediate direct support for firms is still urgently needed."

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