Monday 18 November 2019 12:01 am

Economic insecurity ‘new normal’ as Brits fear for living standards

Economic insecurity has become the “new normal” for Brits as millions fear their living standards will fall over the next decade, the boss of a top charity is set to warn.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), will today argue that changes in the economy and government policy have made insecurity “endemic” across the UK.

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New research commissioned by the RSA revealed that 40 per cent of UK adults – roughly 21m people – are not confident of having a decent standard of living in ten years’ time. This is compared to just 43 per cent who said they were confident.

The vast majority of respondents cited increased uncertainty about the labour market, while almost two-thirds said they received “little or no help” from the government.

“There is no question that economic worry is the new normal for millions of people in this country,” Taylor, former head of policy under Tony Blair, will say in a speech in central London today.

“Insecurity limits people’s horizons and imaginations, forcing them to focus on the here and now rather than longer term possibilities.”

Just over 40 per cent of respondents said they believe poverty and economic insecurity are the result of government policy, while roughly a quarter blamed individuals’ own choices. Just 17 per cent cited the impact of business and employment practices such as zero-hour contracts.

The poll also highlighted a disparity in viewpoints across generations. Only a third of 35 to 44-year-olds said they expected to maintain a good standard of living over the next 12 months, compared to 62 per cent of over-65s.

However, this is reversed in the long term, as older groups worry their relative affluence today may soon come to an end.

Only a quarter of over-65s said they predicted a good standard of living in a decade’s time, while younger groups are more confident about their prospects.

The poll revealed that while Brexit will be the most important topic in the upcoming General Election, the issues of poverty and social inequality will also play a key role in influencing voters.

Taylor, who penned a major 2017 review into working practices in the modern economy, will call for tough new measures to reduce precarity, including a pilot of universal basic income, as well as measures to address the causes of this insecurity.

He will also call for a new economic focus away from free-market neoliberalism towards a more “communitarian capitalism” favouring mutuals and cooperatives.

But Mark Littlewood, director general of free market think tank the Institute for Economic Affairs, said Taylor’s criticism of free market capitalism was “badly misplaced”, arguing that cooperatives and mutuals already exist in the current system.

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“An economy which creates diversity and choice is far preferable to one that would restrict people to a few, limited options,” he said.

“The best way to tackle the insecurity some people feel about their future living standards is to promote strong economic growth through market mechanisms, not to seek more and more government intervention in the economy and, by extension, peoples’ lives.”

Main image credit: Getty