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  • Workers in low paid jobs, younger workers, and those in insecure roles – such as the gig economy – have been hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19.
  • This situation is not getting any better with nearly a third (30%) of vulnerable workers worrying they’d have no prospects if they lost their current job.
  • However vulnerable workers are half as likely to have the recommended amount of savings to fall back on than people in more stable, higher paid work.
  • Nesta is launching the £2.8 million Rapid Recovery Challenge to encourage innovative solutions that help improve access to jobs and financial support for those hit hardest by COVID-19.

Monday 14 September 2020 – New research from innovation foundation, Nesta, reveals over a third of workers (36%) feel their job is less secure than before the pandemic, rising to 63% of those on furlough.

The research, conducted to mark the launch of the Rapid Recovery Challenge, also found this worry is not just limited to job security. More than two in five (44%) feel less financially secure than before the pandemic, and this uncertainty is particularly felt in the younger generation (52% of 18-24 year olds).

The economic impact of COVID-19 is hitting some groups of society particularly hard, including those in low paid work, younger workers and those in insecure roles, such as gig workers or those on temporary contracts. In fact, since the pandemic started, vulnerable workers such as these are twice as likely to be working fewer hours compared to people in more stable work who haven’t been impacted by the pandemic (26% compared to 13%) and nearly a third (32%) say a second lockdown would send them over the edge financially.

Just 35% of vulnerable workers are confident they would be able to find another job in three months if they were made redundant, compared to half (48%) of workers in a stable job, and 30% say they’d have no prospects at all.

This lack of job security is particularly worrying as vulnerable workers are also far less likely to have a financial safety net to fall back on. While 30% of stable workers have at least three months of outgoings in savings, this figure is almost halved for vulnerable workers (18%). Indeed, vulnerable workers are more than three times as likely to have no savings at all (16% of vulnerable workers compared to 5% of stable workers).

When asked about what options people would have to turn to if they lost their job, a third (33%) of vulnerable workers would have to turn to government benefits, one in five (21%) would sell whatever they could and one in ten (10%) would have to move in with parents or family. It’s therefore unsurprising that a third (34%) say worry about their job is impacting their mental health.

Ravi Gurumurthy, Chief Executive of Nesta, said: “COVID-19 has created a huge economic shock, laying bare and exacerbating pre-existing problems for people on low incomes and in precarious work. Millions face severe threats to their job security and household finances, both immediately and in the longer term, and we know that low-paid workers, people in insecure roles and those under 25 will be hit hardest.

“There is an urgent need to support people at risk of losing their livelihoods and financial security, or who already have, so that millions do not find themselves out of work and out of pocket. I’m looking forward to seeing the range of solutions innovators develop to address these issues and support those whose jobs and finances have been most impacted by the pandemic.”

Nesta is launching the £2.8 million Rapid Recovery Challenge to find and support tools and services that improve access to jobs and money for people across the UK, focusing on those hit hardest by the economic shock of COVID-19, such as Dani. Dani is a self-employed lighting technician in the entertainment industry who lost all her work when lockdown hit and theatres were shut down. She’s been struggling to pay her bills in recent months but is very worried about her prospects of finding a different job given the hundreds of applicants applying for every role.

Funded by Nesta, in partnership with the Money and Pensions Service and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Challenge will support innovators to develop and scale solutions through financial grants and non-financial support such as access to data, help with product and service design, and access to a wider support network of organisations. The two winning projects will be announced at the end of the programme in September 2021.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, CEO of the Money and Pensions Service said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the money worries many people face, but particularly for young people and workers on lower incomes. It’s vital that those worst hit can now access the right support and start to find a way forward with their finances.

“We’re pleased to help fund this initiative, which supports the decade-long goals set out in our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing to enable everyone – including those in vulnerable circumstances - to make the most of their money and pensions.”

When asked about their top worries at present, paying the bills was one of the top three concerns for vulnerable workers (24%) along with their mental health (26%) and the health impacts of catching COVID-19 (27%). Overall, vulnerable workers are more likely to worry about money issues compared to stable workers, with 43% worried about paying bills or debts, buying food, and gaining financial independence, compared to 32% of stable workers.

Hang Ho, Head of Global Philanthropy for EMEA and LATAM, JPMorgan, said: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt most keenly by those already in precarious economic positions, many of whom have already lost their jobs or have little or no financial buffer to weather the crisis. As the fight against this disease and its impact continues it is imperative that these people not be left behind and are supported to improve their career prospects and financial resilience. We are excited to work with Nesta to support the most impactful approaches to grow, reach more people and tackle these prescient issues.”

For more information about the Rapid Recovery Challenge visit rapidrecovery.challenges.org


Notes to editors:

We have case studies who are willing to speak with the media. Please get in touch if you are interested.

For all media enquiries contact:

Robyn Margetts, [email protected] OR Emma Harvey, [email protected]

Methodology: Opinium, on behalf of Nesta Challenges, interviewed 2,500 people between 31st July and 7th August 2020. This sample included 2,400 workers and 100 who had recently been made redundant. Of those working, 1,900 were classified as vulnerable workers, 500 as stable workers, and within those 280 were furloughed.

Vulnerable workers are defined as either:

  • Those in temporary work, on variable hours contracts (zero-hour) and low-paid self-employed workers; AND
  • Workers under 25; AND/OR
  • Workers earning less than £20,000 per annum.

Stable workers are all workers who don’t fall into these categories, defined in the study as those who are working for an organisation in a stable role, with a personal income of £30,000+ per annum, who have not been made redundant or furloughed during the pandemic.

About Nesta and Nesta Challenges

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society. We've spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we've applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation and the creative economy and arts.

Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges exists to design and run challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions. We shine a spotlight where it matters and incentivise people to solve these issues. We are independent supporters of change to help communities thrive and inspire the best placed, most diverse groups of people around the world to take action.

We support the boldest and bravest ideas to become real, and seed long term change to advance society and build a better future for everyone. We are part of the innovation foundation, Nesta.

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase is committed to expanding access to opportunity and enable more people to share in the rewards of a growing economy. Our mission is to drive inclusive growth and create an economy that works for more people. To do this, we are investing in people and places to tackle barriers to opportunity and create the conditions for lasting change. We take a comprehensive approach to increasing economic opportunity, using our firm's global scale, talent, and resources to make investments and create partnerships in four priority areas: Jobs & Skills, Small Business Expansion, Financial Health, and Neighborhood Development.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.2 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com

About the Money and Pensions Service

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) vision is: ‘everyone making the most of their money and pensions.’

MaPS is an arm’s-length body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and it has a joint commitment to provide access to the information and guidance people across the UK need, to make effective financial decisions over their lifetime. The organisation also engages with HM Treasury on policy matters relating to financial capability and debt advice.

MaPS brings together the free services previously delivered by the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. MaPS offers customers guidance and appointments over the telephone, online and in person.

MaPS is the largest single funder of free debt advice in England and also works alongside partners across the UK to make debt advice easier and quicker to access, and to improve standards and quality across the sector. Debt advice is a devolved function in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For further information visit the Money and Pensions Service website: www.moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk

Consumers can continue to access free guidance about their money and pensions via the following websites and help lines:

www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk / 0800 138 7777

www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk / 0800 011 3797

www.pensionwise.gov.uk/en / 0800 138 3944 

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