The director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says that an economic recovery that prioritises jobs for young people should be at the centre of a post-pandemic plan.
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn is due to step down as CBI’s director general at the end this year.
Fairbairn will use her final keynote address as CBI boss to urge the UK government, business and wider society to work together on a strategy akin to that seen during World War II in order to spearhead Britain’s revival.
She will warn of the impact the recession has had, particularly on young people, with the havoc wreaked by coronavirus potentially creating a “lost generation.”
Fairbairn who is due to speak on the opening day of CBI’s conference on Monday will say: “Young people are amongst the hardest hit by the devastating economic impact of COVID-19. They face the 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.”
It will be the first time the business group will hold its conference virtually due to the coronavirus.
CBI says that it will be the most attended conference in its history with an audience of around 8,000 business leaders, politicians and policymakers.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is due to appear at the conference as well as a yet-to-be confirmed senior cabinet minister.
Other speakers include, Natwest (NWG.L) CEO, Alison Rose; BP (BP.L) CEO, Bernard Looney; Bank of America (BAC) Chairman and CEO, Brian Moynihan; Unilever (ULVR.L) CEO, Alan Jope; Facebook (FB) UK & Ireland Director, Steve Hatch; Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) CEO, Laxman Narasimhan and Diageo (DGE.L) Chairman, Javier Ferran.
Additionally, 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 end of the health crisis.
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.
Speaking on the commitment of firms, the CBI boss will say that “UK business is ready to help lead this revival” and that the government does not need to go it alone.
“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.”
Britain’s biggest business group represents 190,000 UK companies of all sizes and sectors. The CBI’s corporate members together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of private sector-employees.
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