You wanted to know, what schemes are actually available to you? How can you pivot careers if you want to, and if you’re an entrepreneur, what investment loans can help get you kick-started and what impact will furlough have on the economy?
You asked, and we got it answered – for this week’s Money Matters special, our Editor-in-Chief Deborah Joseph gets an audience with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and asks him GLAMOUR readers’ questions on all things furlough, careers, money and the beauty industry. Plus, he shares his hopes and fears for the future of his own young daughters.
I never thought I’d be in a situation where I would be turning down a face-to-face meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him GLAMOUR readers’ questions about furlough and finance during the pandemic due to potential Covid symptoms in my own family. But such is life where nothing is ever quite normal, is it?
And this is never truer than when it comes to our careers and finance. With many GLAMOUR readers among the most adversely affected as lockdown and social distancing measures hit the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors, as well as the beauty industry – which employs hundreds of thousands of women in the UK and contributes £28billion annually to the economy – many are left feeling fearful, bewildered and wondering what’s next for their career in light of the pandemic.
I want to try to speak to as many different people so they can see what I’m up to and hold me accountable for it.
Gen Z workers in particular have been hit three times harder than the national average by job insecurity, with the unemployment rate for 16-24-year-olds at 13.4%, compared to 4.1% across the whole workforce.
“This is why I wanted to talk to GLAMOUR today,” Rishi Sunak tells me across my laptop screen, as I sit in my kitchen at 9am this morning. “The things I do have an impact on people’s lives,” he adds. “I want to try to speak to as many different people so they can see what I’m up to and hold me accountable for it. I know young people are more likely to have been furloughed, so it’s more important than ever to reach out to them and to you and talk about what we’re doing and why to provide reassurance.”
It was a super quick meeting (just nine mins in total), but GLAMOUR was the only non-news publication granted an audience with the Chancellor. It follows this morning’s news that after a record fall of 19.5% back in April, the UK economy grew again by 15.5% percent in the third quarter of this year – although a second lockdown is hitting jobs hard and GDP is still 9.7% below where it was at the end of 2019.
So, I want to ask him, amid all the doom and gloom – what rays of light are there in millennials’ and Gen Zs’ search for new jobs?
But first, some background info on the 40-year-old Chancellor making these huge decisions affecting many of our lives. Originally from Southampton, he is the son of Asian East African parents – his dad, a GP, his mum, a pharmacist. He was privately educated at Winchester College and went on to study at Oxford and in America before working at Goldman Sachs and hedge funds. He was then elected as an MP for Richmond (Yorkshire) in the 2015 General Election. Married to Akshata Murthy, who runs a fashion label, Akshata Designs, and is the director of a venture capital firm founded by her dad, an Indian billionaire businessman. They they have two young daughters, Krishna and Anoushka. He was appointed Chancellor in February this year, just over a month before lockdown hit. He’s been nicknamed, ‘Dishi Rishi’ – unconnected to his Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
So what advice does he have for GLAMOUR readers on furlough, finance and the future as part of this Money Matters special? In the limited time I have speaking to him, I pose GLAMOUR readers’ questions as sent to us on Instagram – and try my best to cut through the political jargon to get some practical answers from the man who brought us the furlough scheme, Eat Out To Help Out and Jets [the Job Entry Targeted Support scheme]. I also try to get a small glimpse of the man behind the red briefcase.
DJ: What will happen when the next furlough scheme ends in March? (GLAMOUR reader Laura Martin – via Instagram)
RS: “My No1 worry since the start has been trying to protect as many people’s jobs as possible. Clearly the health restrictions have an impact on the economy and I know how worrying and damaging it is when your job is at risk. That’s why I put the furlough scheme in place – it’s protected over nine million jobs so far. It’s run continuously until now and will do until next spring.
“But I can’t save every single job, that won’t be possible, no chancellor can. What I can do is provide new possibilities, such as my Kickstart scheme, which we’ve created to support young people into really high-quality job placements – and fully fund those. For those who are at risk of unemployment, we’ve created 20,000 of those placements. And the other thing is apprenticeships. We’re giving businesses a huge cash bonus to take on apprentices at any age. I met a great female apprentice the other day when I visited a development site for housing in West London – she was excited about the new skills she was learning and getting paid at the same time. I think it’s set her up for an exciting career. I hope more young people will take advantage of that.”
DJ: Do you see this mainly for people starting out in their careers, or for those who are pivoting to switch careers?
RS: Both. You can do this at any stage of your career. Ditto for the Kickstart scheme – it runs all the way into the mid 20s. We’ve already got people who’ve been working and who are changing to a different career and want to learn a new trade while they’re earning. But also, one thing that the Prime Minister announced recently is we’re going to make it possible for anyone at any age to pick up a Level 3 qualification funded by the government, which hasn’t been the case historically – that universal entitlement. So if you find later in life that your job’s changed and you need to learn something new, we will fund that as well. We know the nature of work is changing; people don’t sit in the same job for 30 years like my mum and dad did. We move around and sometimes need new skills for that journey.”
DJ: Do you agree that the communication from the government towards millennials isn’t always as good as it could be? For example, I know it was an old and from before your time, but the backlash to the campaign telling people to ‘rethink, reboot and reskill’ using the word ‘cyber’ in relation to people retraining into jobs in digital. For starters, I don’t know anyone who says ‘I want to get a job in cyber.’ Do you think there needs to be a shift in tone-deafness? (GLAMOUR reader Lucy, 27, Stockport – via Instagram)
RS: “Thanks for that feedback – it’s really good to know – I’ll pass that on to my comms colleagues. But you’re right, language is really important, which is exactly why we’re having this conversation. I want to reach out as I know everyone gets their news in different ways, I do Twitter and LinkedIn Q&As. We need to talk to people on a platform that speaks to them.”
DJ: Many millennials have been encouraged their whole career to follow the life of an entrepreneur; to work for ourselves in multi-hyphen careers – and yet we’re the ones who feel we’ve fallen through the gap when it comes to furlough support. Any plans to support us? (GLAMOUR reader Rachel, 25, a freelancer from London – via Instagram)
RS: “I completely applaud freelancers and business people. I come from an investment background and try to back entrepreneurs – it’s so exciting and inspiring when you give up a regular pay cheque and try to create something of your own. Obviously it comes with freedom, but is also enormously hard work and a risky endeavour. We’ve put something together called the Self-Employed Income Support scheme, it’s more generous and comprehensive than almost any country in the world. It provides grants for people who are self-employed who we know about through the tax system [this doesn’t cover those who only recently started freelancing and haven’t yet done a tax return – Ed] because we need to know about them to help them and know how much you earn to make sure it’s fair. We’ve supported almost three million people who are self employed and there’s more to come at Christmas time as well. I hope that will provide an enormous amount of support to a lot of those self-employed in need.”
DJ: Again, talking again about communication, it’s not a new scheme, but you offer start-up loans up to £25k for wannabe entrepreneurs (which are repaid between one and five years at 6% P.A. interest), but many people I’ve spoken to don’t even know this is an option available to them.
RS: “That’s a fair point and I’ll speak to my team about that, because the Start Up Loan scheme is great and it provides cash flow to people looking into starting up their own business.
Another thing we’ve done in the crisis is called the Future Fund, for potential high-growth businesses – we are matching investment from the private sector in start-up companies and offering anything from £250k to £5million. We’ve had great take up on this in terms of diversity, both regionally and by gender across the portfolio of companies that have come forward and taken advantage of that scheme. But I acknowledge, there’s always more we can do.”
DJ: Can you understand why so many women felt it was misogynistic that the beauty industry – worth over £28.4 billion to the UK economy annually – largely remained closed while pubs and barbers were allowed to open soon after the first lockdown? Now we’ve spent money making ourselves Covid-compliant, but we’ve been closed down again. (GLAMOUR reader Millie – via Instagram)
I obviously get a lot of lobbying on this topic [of the beauty industry] from my wife
RS: “I’m sorry you feel that it’s been particularly difficult. We’ve had to take advice from our health and medical advisers – they looked at the various different close contact settings so they had to wait a bit longer to open. Having said that, I’ve seen first-hand – and I obviously get a lot of lobbying on this topic from my wife. And I have seen the efforts the beauty industry has gone to – it’s not fun or cool working under visors – but they’re working hard at it because they want to welcome their customers back in a safe way. A huge shout out to them for doing that. Hopefully on 2nd December we can get back to our more localised approach and we can all look our best for Christmas… even though there may not be the usual Christmas parties this year.”
DJ: Beauty is as much about mental health as it is about appearance… Finally, you’ve got young daughters – what are your hopes and fears for their future? [GLAMOUR reader Chloe Rayner, 33, Birmingham)
RS: “As a dad of two young girls, what I want to make sure of is that they have fantastically strong role models; so they grow up thinking there’s no profession that isn’t meant for them and they have no limit to the ambitions that they have. On that note, I think there are some real notes of positivity – we’ve just seen the US elect their first female Vice President Kamala Harris, that’s really inspiring for many. We used to live in America, so my daughters are very excited about that.
I think there are some real notes of positivity – we’ve just seen the US elect their first female Vice President
“Also, closer to home, we’re very keen on science in my family. So Professor Sarah Gilbert, who I’ve not met but is the lady running the team at the University of Oxford developing the Coronavirus vaccine, which they’re making fantastic progress on. But what an inspiring story – professor, female scientist, top of her game doing something that could potentially transform the life of billions of people across the world. I talk to my kids about her and they love that. So a couple of glimmers of light in the midst of a very difficult year.”