Coronavirus: Young hit hardest by lockdown financial squeeze
Young people have been hardest hit by a fall in their income during lockdown as more of their money goes on essentials, official data suggests.
The youngest and oldest workers are most likely to have lost their jobs or seen income cut owing to the system of state-paid wages.
With little in savings and less chance to cut spending, the under-30s would be hit hardest by this, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Renters have found it just as tough.
The ONS has calculated, for the first time, the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on household spending.
It found that a typical household in the UK normally spent an average of £182 a week on activities, such as travel, holidays and meals out, that have been mostly ruled out under health guidance during the virus outbreak. This is equivalent to 22% of a usual weekly budget of £831.
Many households have been saving that money instead or using it to cover any loss of income.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs and millions have received only 80% of their usual wages as they have been furloughed – in other words, told not to work while the government covers their pay.
The latest figures show more than 7.5 million people had been furloughed in the UK by the end of May, while another 2.5 million self-employed workers have applied for grants to cover their losses.
While many people have saved, there remains the need for about 53% of income to be spent on essentials, such as food, rent, or the mortgage.
Some, but not all of this can be deferred, through so-called payment holidays, particularly credit card bills, gas and electricity charges or mortgage repayments.
However, young people, renters and people living in London have found a greater proportion of their income goes on essentials, some of which cannot be deferred, than other groups.
As a result, they are likely to be hit the hardest if their income drops and they need to find the money for costs such as food and housing.
‘Life turned upside down’
Jared Thomas, 26, from south Wales, has seen work dry up as the coronavirus outbreak means financially stretched customers have had little demand for his tree surgery services.
“Everybody’s life has been turned upside down,” he says.
“I really don’t know when work will pick up. I’d be surprised if it does for the next month or two.”
He has claimed the universal credit benefit for the first time, so he can pay the rent.
The ONS said households renting their home from a landlord spent 61% of their usual weekly budget on essentials, compared with 52% for households which owned their home outright or with a mortgage.
A typical 30-year-old spent 58% of their weekly budget on essentials and normally only 19% on what has been prevented during lockdown, such as drinks in a pub, the ONS said.
On the other hand, older households of between 65 and 74 years old spent far less of their budget on essentials (43%) and considerably more (29%) on activities that have been unavailable.
In London, where property prices and rental costs are most expensive, a typical household spent 58% of its weekly budget on essentials such as food and housing costs, the highest of any region or country of the UK.
“For those who have faced an uphill battle during lockdown, it’s a timely reminder of how much difference it can make to have something set aside for emergencies,” said Sarah Coles, from investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown.
“Nobody is pretending it is easy to put money aside when you’re starting out in your adult life, but it is worth doing whatever you can afford, as soon as you can afford to do so.”
Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at insurer Aviva, said: “While it is true to say that during the coronavirus lockdown ‘we are all in it together’, the impact on our individual finances is not equal.”