The chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), Andy Haldane, has warned more than a century of progress on health and wellbeing was going into reverse, with a direct impact on the economy and the cost of living emergency. “We’re in a situation for the first time, probably since the Industrial Revolution, where health and wellbeing are in retreat,” he said. “Having been an accelerator of wellbeing for the last 200 years, health is now serving as a brake in the rise of growth and wellbeing of our citizens.”
Haldane said the economy was being held back after a sharp fall in the number of people in the British workforce since the onset of the Covid pandemic. However, the former chief economist at the Bank of England said the global health emergency had only served as a “tipping point”. “Spending on healthcare systems, at least by G7 comparisons, the UK sits towards the bottom of the pack,” he said. “It should come as no surprise that we therefore see macroeconomic headwinds such as a record number of unfilled vacancies. We haven’t got enough people.”
About 600,000 workers have dropped out of the workforce, including 200,000 out of work for five years or more due to ill health. 30,000 more people with long Covid and are unable to work. About 50,000 more people have retired early in the last two years, while the number of people who have never worked swelled by 250,000 with two-thirds of this group accounted for by students and a third by people with ill health or disabilities not being able to get into work rather than leaving it.
The situation is made worse by the baby boomer generation taking retirement and lower migration – “with half a million fewer non-UK born workers than there would have been on the pre-2016 trend”.