Britain’s Finance Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) departed for Parliament on Thursday, where he is expected to announce more job protection plans, likely to include a new wage subsidy scheme, to stem unemployment in the pandemic-ravaged economy after existing safeguards expire next month.
Sunak had ruled out a wholesale extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which supported 8.9 million private sector jobs at its peak in May, but a growing second wave of COVID-19 cases has brought clamour for a replacement.
He will announce a new wage subsidy to encourage part-time returns to work instead of full furlough pay, plus an extension of a sales tax cut for the hospitality and tourism industry until the end of March, the Times newspaper said.
Sunak is due to explain the government’s so-called “Economic Winter Plan” in parliament at around 1045 GMT.
The United Kingdom is borrowing record amounts to pump money through an economy on track for its biggest annual contraction in at least 100 years.
Earlier this week, the government dealt a blow to the hospitality sector by ordering bars and restaurants to shut by 10 pm, halved the maximum number of people allowed at weddings, and backtracked on calls for employees to return to offices, rather than work from home.
Curbs on socialising are likely to last another six months.
The Bank of England forecast last month that unemployment would jump to 7.5% by the end of the year if there were no replacement for the existing furlough scheme ending at the end of October, up from 4.1% in the three months to July.
Sunak has said he would be “creative” in finding a way to support employment but has also repeatedly stressed it will not be possible to save every job.