Nearly a quarter of employees in the country have been furloughed in the past two weeks due to Coronavirus lockdown, the United Kingdom's Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said on Monday. According to figures, the employment rate in the United Kingdom was estimated at a record high of 76.6%, which amounted to more than 33 million people in the labour force with 27.9 million of them working as employees. The figures show that 23% of the total employees have been furloughed in the country.
HMRC said a total of 6.3 million workers have been temporarily laid off by 8,00,000 companies, with subsidy claims amounting to £8 billion as of May 3. According to reports, companies have flocked in to take advantage of the job subsidy scheme launched by the UK Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak a few days into the lockdown. Under the scheme, the UK government said it would pay 80% of the wages, up to a ceiling of £2,500 per month until the end of June. The government is now facing pressure from employers to extend the scheme.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecasted the cost of the exchequer to be at £39 billion between March and June, which does not include the cost of a separate scheme covering self-employed workers in the country, which the government announced a few days after launching its job retention scheme. Rishi Sunak while talking to the media said that he is working on an exit strategy because the scheme would have to wound down at some point. Sunak said that he is working on the most effective way to wind down the scheme and bring people back to work in a measured way.
The United Kingdom became the second most affected country in Europe in terms of the number of deaths reported so far. According to data by worldometer, the United Kingdom has recorded more than 1,90,000 cases of coronavirus, of which over 28,700 people have lost their lives. There are currently 1,61,506 active cases while 1,559 remain under critical condition. The worldwide death toll due to coronavirus pandemic has surpassed the 2,52,900 mark with over 3.64 million people infected as of May 4.
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