Furlough Didn’t Save Millions of Jobs – It Led to a Welfare Crisis

Furlough didn’t save millions of jobs and its true costs are only now becoming clear, says Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph, as he responds to the latest Rishi Sunak promo advert. Here’s an excerpt.

The latest Rishi Sunak advert paints him as quite the hero. “14 million jobs saved” it declares, in Hollywood poster style. And underneath: “Furlough announced, four years ago today.” SuperSunak is shown in three action-man guises: at his desk, in trademark hoodie. Then walking, with a look of urgent purpose. Finally, wearing a face mask, tie tucked into his shirt, ready to save a life or two. It recalls happier times: when he was more popular than Churchill, hailed as a financial miracle-worker who had saved the country from the worst economic impact of Covid.

At the time, the real-life Sunak was nowhere near as confident. He didn’t sleep the night before furlough launched, feeling physically sick at the sheer scale of his gamble. It would pay 80% of employees’ wages: might such generosity end up creating welfare dependency, making things worse long-term? Would it just prop up jobs that were never coming back, spending a fortune to delay economic rejuvenation? The test, as he knew, would come years later.

In the end, Britain has turned out to be one of the few countries in the world whose workforce is still smaller than it was before the pandemic. Furlough was a powerful drug initially designed for three months. It ended up being used on and off for a year and a half, with £70 billion given to 11.7 million people. Companies, not all of which actually existed, were helped with loans. That was the short-term cost. We’re only now starting to see the longer-term effect.

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