The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned the UK that higher unemployment and slow economic growth are likely in the future, partly due to economic uncertainty regarding Brexit.

The warning was published as part of the latest OECD economic outlook, which lists economic data and projections for a variety of countries. The OECD data states that UK growth is likely to slow over the next two years from its current rate of 1.5% to as little as 1.1 per cent.

A slow in growth could have significant implications for the UK economy. Currently, the jobless rate is at a record low level of 4.3 per cent across the country. A decline in growth could lead to fewer employment opportunities and an increase in the number of unemployed individuals.

The OECD report also states that falling consumer confidence and a reduction in investment in UK businesses could affect growth, in addition to the “negative impact of uncertainty about the final outcome of Brexit negotiations.”

According to the document, a “modest rise in the unemployment rate” is likely as a result of the slowdown in economic growth. The report states that UK job creation “is losing momentum” as the number of people classified as economically inactive begins to grow.

“Economically inactive” individuals in the UK grew to 8.8 million over the past reporting period — the most significant increase in the last seven years. In the quarter to September, employment was approximately 32 million after a sustained decline from April to June of 2015.

Other financial risks to the UK include a growing level of consumer debt. Combined with fairly stagnant wages and a consistent level of inflation, the report states that this poses a significant risk to the UK’s continued growth and economic stability.

Finally, significant levels of inflation caused by uncertainty over the value of British currency are also to blame for the recent slowdown in economic activity.

The report’s conclusions indicate that Britain will be the only major economic to experience a slowdown in growth for three continuous years. According to the OECD data, Britain will stay alongside Japan as one of the slowest growing of the world’s developed economies.

According to the report, consumer debt is a particularly pressing issue for the UK. With large amounts of consumers owing credit card debts and personal loans, the OECD report states a major default risk in the event that economic conditions continue to slow down.

The report recommends more stringent affordability checks for personal loans and sources of credit to reduce lending risks. Despite this, the Bank of England recently declared that lenders had passed its “stress tests” for coping with a disorderly Brexit.

In response to the potential economic slowdown, the government has taken a series of steps to stimulate economic activity. Philip Hammond introduced a new housing policy aimed at reducing the cost of purchasing property for new buyers — a scheme that’s attracted controversy.

While the UK will likely remain near the end of the pack amongst developed economies over the coming years, economic activity continues to grow in developing countries such as China, India and Vietnam, bringing the global growth forecast to 3.6% for 2017.

Amy Richards
John Richardson