A long-term illness crisis is threatening the UK economy

A line of ambulances outside the emergency department of the Royal London Hospital on November 24, 2022, in London. In the UK, the number of people “not recovering” – those who are not working or looking for work – between the ages of 16 and 64 has risen by more than 630,000 since 2019.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

LONDON – With high inflation and energy costs, a trade deal linked to Brexit and the ongoing recession, the British economy is being undermined by the number of workers chronic illnesses are reported.

The Bureau of Statistics reported that between June and August 2022, approximately 2.5 million people cited chronic illness as the main cause of economic insecurity, an increase of about half a million since 2019.

The number of people “out of work” – those who are not working or looking for work – between the ages of 16 and 64 has risen by more than 630,000 since 2019. back to labor market, even if the economic and energy costs are putting a lot of pressure on the family finances.

The UK avoided many job losses during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to a government program to help businesses retain workers. But since the lockdowns were lifted, the country has seen the labor market exit at unprecedented rates among economies.

In its report last month, the ONS cited six major factors behind the recent rise, including National Health Service waiting lists that are at record highs, the aging population and the effects of the duration of Covid.

“Younger people have also seen some of the biggest increases, with some industries such as wholesalers and retailers more affected than others,” the ONS said.

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While the effects of the above-mentioned issues were not quantified, the report suggested that the increase was due to “other health problems or disabilities,” “mental illness and trauma” and ” problems related to [the] back or neck.”

Legacy of austerity

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, told CNBC that the rate of labor market contraction appears to be a combination of long Covid; other health problems related to disease such as mental illness; and emergency care in the NHS.

On top of that, he notes that factors affecting public health – such as increased waiting times for treatment – can have a knock-on effect: people may have to leave the staff to care for sick families.

“It’s important to remember that Britain has been here before, arguably at least twice. In the early 1990s, Britain saw a strong recovery, with the fall of the unemployment, after the ‘Black Wednesday,’ but also saw a large, and permanent, rise in the number of people claiming benefits related to the inability,” the story said Portes, adding that unemployment is often bad for health and employment.

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“It is clear that the government is not doing much about this. Apart from solving the problem in the NHS, another key area of ​​policy is support for patients and disability to go back to work, and this is almost never happening – instead the government is harassing people on Universal Credit with fines and penalties which we know don’t help much .”

In his recent Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt revealed that the government will ask more than 600,000 people who receive Universal Credit – a model social security payment to the minimum income or unemployed families – to meet with a “job coach” to develop plans to increase hours and income.

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Hunt also announced a review of issues preventing re-entry into the labor market and allocated £280 million ($340.3 million) to “tackling fraud and error” over the next two years. .

While the disease has greatly worsened the health problem and left a hole in the British economy, the rise in chronic diseases began in 2019, and business people are seeing a lot of reasons that cause the country’s unique weakness.

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Portes said the government’s policy of austerity – the decade of government spending cuts implemented after Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010 – was intended to be reined in. the national debt – had an important role in leaving Britain.

“Britain was hit hard by austerity – NHS waiting lists grew sharply, and performance/satisfaction fell sharply, before the pandemic,” said Portes.

“And support for those with disabilities and disabilities was tightened in the early 2010s. In general, austerity caused a gradual decline in life outcomes. healthy by income/class.”

The same with increasing waiting lists

This is confirmed by national statistics: The ONS estimates that between 2018 and 2020, men living in the poorest areas of England will on average live 9.7 years less than they are in the poorest areas, with a gap of 7.9 years for women.

The ONS said that both sexes saw “record increases in inequality in life expectancy at birth since 2015 to 2017.”

In the wake of the pandemic, NHS waiting lists have grown at their fastest pace since records began in August 2007, a recent House of Commons report revealed, with more than 7 million patients on on the waiting list for specialist hospital treatment in England in September. .

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However, the report stated that this is not a new phenomenon recently, and the waiting list has grown rapidly since 2012.

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“Before the pandemic, in December 2019, the waiting list was over 4.5 million – almost two million higher than it was in December 2012, a 74% increase,” the said.

“In other words, while the increase in waiting lists accelerated because of the pandemic, it also happened for years before the pandemic.”

A former Bank of England policymaker, Michael Saunders, who is now a senior adviser at Oxford Economics, also told CNBC that the UK was hit hard by Covid in severe cases, and that some of these may have been caused by the high prices in the country. pre-existing health conditions – such as obesity – may have been exacerbated by Covid.

“Britain is an unequal country, maybe part of the reason is that even if the Covid wave is similar to other countries, it may have a greater impact on public health, because if you want to be stronger . people’s tails are the most affected,” he added.

Saunders recommended that any growth plan from the government should include measures to solve these health problems, which are now inseparable from the number of workers and the general economy.

“It’s not just health, it’s economic, it’s very important in both areas, I think it’s very important for health, but it should be more important because of the effects on what is possible then produce and feed other economic problems. .”


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