Jobless rate around UK airports above average, say MPs

Analysis shows that unemployment rates are higher around major UK airports than across the UK.

According to parliamentary data, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits went up 112% across the UK between January 2020 and January 2021.

But analysis by a group of MPs with interest in aviation found that in constituencies around the UK’s top 20 airports, it rose 145% on average.

Some airports in London and the South East saw particularly high rises.

In Hayes and Harlington, which contains Heathrow, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has increased 221%. In Crawley, around Gatwick, it has increased 224% and in Saffron Walden, the home of Stansted, it has increased 228%.

Earlier this month, a learning hub was set up by the Unite union to help workers employed at Heathrow develop new skills to improve their prospects of finding work. The union has said that over 30,000 airport workers could lose their job by the time the pandemic ends.

‘Hardest hit’

Last week, the prime minister announced that a Global Travel Taskforce would provide a report on how to return to international travel on 12 April. The government will then decide what measures to take, although Boris Johnson ruled out international travel until at least 17 May.

While many in the aviation sector were pleased to be included in the road map out of lockdown, some people are still concerned that it will take the industry time to recover.

“As these figures show, aviation communities have been some of the hardest hit in the country,” said Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association.

“Airports are major employers in their regions and the consequences of the near-total shutdown of aviation will be felt far and wide.

“Current programmes such as furlough and business rates relief for airports should be extended for the full financial year in recognition of the expected slow recovery in travel,” Ms Dee said.

The All Party-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Future of Aviation, which released the analysis, said this shows that airport communities are being hit hard by the pandemic, and is calling for more support for the industry.

“Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have been devastated by the near total collapse in passenger numbers and our airport communities have borne the brunt of this,” said APPG chair Henry Smith, MP.

“With continuing travel restrictions adding further delay to aviation’s recovery, without a continuation of the job retention scheme, we run the very real risk that these figures will continue to increase.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “Our priority throughout the past year has been to protect as many jobs as possible, which is why we’ve invested more than £280bn to support jobs, businesses and our public services.

“We will continue to invest in protecting and creating jobs through the remainder of the pandemic and through the recovery, and we will set out further details via the next stage of our Plan for Jobs at the upcoming Budget.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to present his Budget on Wednesday.

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