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What does 2020 hold for Wales?

January 1st 2020

Another year, another decade.  What lies ahead?  Our round up of expert forecasts, published today, finds that 2020 looks set to be very similar to 2019, despite the outcome of the general election. Victoria Winckler reflects on what it means.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2020 looks like being another tough year especially if you’re not well off. The economy is stagnating, yet the cost of living, especially for housing, is increasing. There’s some good news with expected rises in the National Living Wage and its extension to 21 to 24 year olds. But the risk is that gains are clawed back by benefits.

One of the most striking findings is on how Wales’ population is likely to change over the year.  The number of over-50 year olds is likely to rise by about 10,000 over the year and the number of under-50s is likely to fall.  These shifts could put further pressure on health and social care services.  And while there is some respite as past decisions result in small increases in cash for the NHS, local government and other services, the gains do not restore the Welsh budget to pre-austerity levels.  Long waits to get a GP appointment and for treatment look set to continue.

2020 will bring Brexit, but the debate will not go away with an extremely tight timetable to reach a trade deal.  Behind the scenes, expect tensions about ‘who decides what’ in Wales. We should all be aware of the risk of Wales being marginalised as Scotland and Northern Ireland dominate the future of the UK union.

Other key points are that only very modest economic growth is likely, with the gap between Wales and London and the south-east of England continuing to widen. With signs of the labour market cooling. there will be little relief for the people and places suffering high levels of unemployment. Average wages and low earnings are likely to show some real terms improvements. But he roll-out of Universal Credit and implementation of past reforms will hit people on low incomes hard.  Put simply, there is no sign of a Brexit dividend any time soon.

On housing, supply is likely to continue to fall below demand. Rises in housing costs, in particular social rents, look set to outstrip increases in wages and benefits. Tents on the streets and families to struggling to pay their rent look set to continue.

State of Wales Briefings are a benefit of a Bevan Foundation subscription.  The full briefing is available in the subscribers’ area.  To get yours simply sign up here.

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation

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