Working-age benefits are expected to climb to nearly £ 140 billion this year as skyrocketing unemployment, falling wages and rising universal credit push government costs to the next level. record
In total, they will represent 7% of gross domestic product (GDP), predicts the Institute of Fiscal Studies, against 5% before the crisis
This is the highest share of GDP since the record started in the 1970s, dropping from £ 104 billion last year to around £ 139 billion this year
It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that the borrowing boom meant « tough choices » on taxes and spending
He increased his benefits earlier this year to ease the pressure on families affected by the coronavirus crisis and recession, and must decide whether or not to let those increases expire
This includes an additional £ 1,000 per year for unemployed Universal Credit applicants, which is due to end in April 2021; a higher housing allowance for private tenants; and the suspension of the minimum income threshold for self-employed workers entitled to universal credit
The increases account for around £ 9bn of the overall increase in working-age benefits’ Even in its optimistic scenario, the Office of Fiscal Responsibility believes that the impact on the labor market of the Covid will increase spending on benefits by £ 17bn this year, and that’s before you factor in the £ 9bn of temporary welfare measures the government has taken « Economist Tom Waters told IFS
He added: « Merely letting these temporary gifts expire would certainly help reduce that figure, but would lead to a significant drop in the incomes of the millions of affected families. »
If M Sunak chose to make the increase in universal credit permanent, the IFS estimates that this would cost the government £ 6 billion per year, or 10 pc of the bill for this benefit
However, it would also avoid a 13% reduction in income for the average of the four million families on universal credit, and up to 21% for single homeowners with no children on the benefit.
The government is currently on track to borrow around £ 370 billion this year, with national debt already exceeding 100% of GDP for the first time since the 1960s
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Rishi Sunak, Unemployed, Chancellor of the Exchequer
News from around the world – UK – Covid crisis pushes working-age benefit payments to £ 140 billion
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