A total of 17,900 workers have not yet returned to work following coronavirus lockdown, equating to 30 per cent of the region’s 60,400 employed people, according to coronavirus job retention scheme statistics for August 2020 collated by HMRC.
And MSP Colin Smyth has said Dumfries and Galloway risks an unemployment disaster unless the UK Government introduces a targeted extension to the furlough scheme.
The scheme provided businesses with a grant of up to 80 per cent of staff members wages capped at £2500 for every staff member on furlough.
However, this was cut to 70 per cent this month with businesses having to fund the difference and is set to be ended completely on 31 October when all support will be withdrawn.
This has raised fears that thousands of local workers could be made redundant.
Mr Smyth believes a targeted extension of the furlough scheme for those who work in the arts and entertainment industries, for example, would save thousands of local jobs.
He said: “Unemployment in our region has already doubled compared to this time last year and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with that number set to rise as the furlough scheme winds down even further.
“That is why I’m calling on the UK Government to urgently introduce a targeted extension to the scheme without delay.
“As lockdown eases even further, many people will be able to return to work as before but there are thousands, particularly in the arts and entertainment industry, who are facing continued restrictions and huge uncertainty about whether their jobs will even exist.”