We commissioned Populus to conduct polling on the economy, seeking to understand people’s values and whether they felt these were reflected in the economy – and importantly, what values they want to see in the economy as we recover after lockdown finishes.
The responses paint a clear picture: most people do not feel that the economy works for them and do not believe that sharing wealth fairly or protecting workers and consumers were priorities in the pre-Covid economy.
A huge 90% did not feel that sharing wealth fairly was given priority in the pre-coronavirus economy, and 82% did not feel that protecting workers and consumers took priority either. Over half of respondents stated that the economy is run for the benefit of private business and did not feel that they have a stake in it – by contrast, only a quarter felt that they have a stake in the economy.
The more positive news, however, is that there is broad support for change. Over two thirds of people want to give customers, communities and employees more od a say in how businesses and the economy are run. The majority of respondents believe that more businesses run as co-operatives, owned by customers, employees and/or communities instead of private shareholders would make the economy fairer. Similarly the majority support more co-operative and community banks and credit unions, ending the use of tax havens, employees on company boards, and corporate governance reform so that companies must consider the environment and community as well as their profits.
Almost two thirds of respondents (64%) believe that mechanisms to allow employees to buyout the business they work for if the company is at risk of closing down would help to create a fairer economy – showing popular support for a British version of Italy’s Marcora Law. This piece of legislation provides workers at risk of redundancy, when a business or part of a businesses is poised to shut down, with their unemployment benefits as a lump sum in advance to use as capital to buyout the business – as well as access to support and guidance to make it successful. Not only does this keep people in jobs and ensure businesses stay open and productive, it also means the economy can over time shift to a fairer, more democratic structure where employees have a say and a stake in their workplaces.
Something not often covered when analysing polling results is the number of people who don’t know the right answer. We think it’s important to highlight – of our respondents, 41% didn’t know if profit maximisation should be a focus or not, and 39% didn’t know whether or not it is a good idea to pursue growth at any cost.
After a decade of austerity, a difficult few months of lockdown, and an uncertain economic future, it is unsurprising that people do not feel like they know the answers. With many in insecure work or unsure whether they will still have a job when the furlough scheme ends, ‘don’t know’ is a valid response – and also an opportunity to put forward new ideas on how we reshape the economy. At a time of deep political polarisation, results showing that people are open to different policy options should be cause for hope and a rallying call to those of us with ideas for a fairer, more equal future.