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All Clapped Out? Key Workers: Living through lockdown

Author: Jake Jooshandeh, Royal Society of Arts, Alan Lockey, Royal Society of Arts

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are 10.6m key workers across the UK, comprising a third of the total workforce. During lockdown and the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, these workers faced unique set of economic circumstances.

This briefing details the first findings of the RSA’s Economic Security Observatory (ESO), supported by Trust for London and Standard Life Foundation. The ESO is a research project that aims to explore what gaps in support exist – whether state, community, business or other policy frameworks – that lead increasing numbers of individuals and families in Britain to live in a condition of economic insecurity.

Reflecting on their extraordinary social contribution throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the ESO focuses primarily on uncovering the gaps in support that impact upon the economic security of key workers.

  1. Most key workers report doing financially well during lockdown: over sixty percent (63 percent) say their household has been “very” or “relatively comfortable financially” during the pandemic.
  2. However, not all did well. Certain groups of key workers still had to access their savings throughout the pandemic: 22 percent of supermarket workers; 20 percent of those working in transport, utilities or communication; 18 percent of school and nursery workers; 14 percent of social care workers; and 10 percent of NHS staff.
  3. 20 percent of key workers saw their hours decrease through the pandemic. This was largely driven, perhaps unsurprisingly, by school and nursery staff (36 percent saw fewer hours) and by transport, utilities, and communications workers (23 percent). 
  4. 27 percent of supermarket workers and 22 percent of social care workers also said they would find it difficult to pay an unexpected bill of £100.
  5. 58 percent of all key workers said that they have found it more difficult to maintain their mental health as a result of the pandemic, with 21 percent finding it “much more difficult”.
  6. 79 percent of key workers think the economic situation of Britain will get worse in the next six months, while 61 percent think it will get worse in their local area specifically.
  7. In response, the RSA is calling for an expansion of Statutory Sick Pay to all employees, greater provision of mental health services for key workers, and a one-off bonus of £500 for those working in social care.

31 August 2020

All Clapped Out? Key Workers: Living through lockdown