CBI chief to call for post-virus recovery plan to prioritise young people

An economic recovery that prioritises jobs for young people should be at the centre of a post-coronavirus plan, a leading business figure will suggest.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn will use her final speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference as director general to urge Government, business and others in society to unite and produce a strategy akin to that seen during the Second World War in order to spearhead the country’s revival.

Dame Carolyn will warn that young people have been particularly impacted by the recession, with the havoc wreaked by Covid potentially creating a “lost generation”.

Due to speak on the opening day of the conference on Monday, she is preparing to say: “Young people are amongst the hardest hit by the devastating economic impact of Covid-19.

“They face most risk of losing their job, find it hardest to move into new jobs, and are the most affected by long periods of unemployment.

“They are also facing serious interruptions in their education and training.

“Seven in ten young people feel their life is on hold, while anxiety and depression are on the rise. Urgent action is needed to protect their futures and prevent a lost Covid generation.”

With a yet-to-be confirmed Cabinet minister and Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer due to appear at the conference, Dame Carolyn will set out the case for a Beveridge-style review – calling to mind the plan suggested by economist William Beveridge during the Second World War – to boost jobs.

She will recommend the creation of a National Commission for Economic Recovery, bringing together business, government, unions, education and other parts of civil society, and call for work to start before the pandemic has come to a close.

The commission, she will argue, should have “clear targets and a bold remit” to create a “fair and sustainable revival” of the UK economy over the next 12 months.

“Just as Churchill commissioned the Beveridge review at the height of the Second World War in 1942, creating the welfare state and supporting several decades of sustained growth, it is now down to the leaders of today to create a revival plan from this historic crisis,” the CBI chief is expected to say.

“The plan should prioritise creating jobs, training and opportunity, particularly – though not only – for young people, through practical partnership.

“The top priority is job creation. The Government’s commitment to ‘build, build, build’ provides a good starting point.

“Many firms are ready to invest, hire and grow, from green retrofitting of homes to accelerating the digital economy. But commitment must be turned into action.”