THE NUMBER of people still on furlough in Scotland has fallen by almost a fifth in a month, new figures reveal.
According to the latest UK government statistics, there were around 116,500 people on furlough by the end of July this year – the lowest level since the scheme started.
The number has fallen by 26,500, from 143,000 at the end of June.
This is substantially lower than when the scheme was first introduced in June 2020, with almost half a million (489,900) jobs furloughed across the country.
By the end of July, data shows that around 5 per cent of men, and the same percentage of women, were being paid through the government’s furlough scheme with cities likely to have higher levels than the Scotland-wide average.
Glasgow City, Aberdeen City, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, and South Ayrshire had the highest take-up rate of furlough, at 6%.
Across the UK as a whole, the manufacturing industry, and accommodation and food services sectors, had the largest number of people still furloughed with 155,000 and 259,100 respectively.
The Chancellor has paid out more than £68bn in total for all furloughed jobs since the scheme started, with almost 1million jobs n total furloughed in Scotland since June last year.
While the scheme has been hailed by businesses and opposition politicians alike, fears are growing about unemployment rates rising when it comes to a complete end on September 30.
However experts say the job losses so far have been lower than predicted.
July was the first month that employers had to pay 10% of the salaries of their furloughed workers, giving them an incentive to bring staff back, or end their employment.
“It’s fantastic to see furlough levels at their lowest since the start of the pandemic, with young people in particular getting back to work and kickstarting their careers as the UK gets back to business,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
“With furlough naturally unwinding and coming to a close at the end of the month, we are doubling down on our Plan for Jobs – focusing our support on giving people the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.”
Furlough launched in the early days of the pandemic as a way of ensuring that people could keep their jobs, and a portion of their income, even when the economy closed down.
For those who were unable to work from home, the scheme would pay them up to 80% of their salaries.
However from the beginning of July employers had to contribute 10% of their furloughed employees’ salaries. This went up again to 20% for August and September.
Charlie McCurdy, an economist at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said: “The number of people coming off furlough over the summer has slowed to a trickle, as some firms and sectors – notably overseas tourism – struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.
“As a result, up to a million employees could still be on furlough when the scheme closes at the end of this month.
“While we expect most of these staff to return to their previous roles, a significant number will not, and we could see a fresh rise in unemployment this autumn.
“Given these circumstances, now is not the right time to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week. The Government must change course.”
Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “GMB has safeguarded jobs through agreements – but the reality is we face an economic cliff edge which risks killing the recovery before it even starts.”
“With 1.6 million workers still on the furlough, ministers, unions and employers must come together and agree a successor package to avoid the devastation of mass redundancies.
“There needs to be a package of support for harder-hit industries such as aviation, which continues to be directly affected by travel restrictions set by the Government..
“We can’t go back to business as usual. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak must act now or be remembered for casting thousands on to the scrapheap.”