The Covid-19 crisis has provided a unique window into the social infrastructure which underpins much of daily life. Such provision clearly included health and medical services (nurses, doctors and social care staff), but also encompassed workers engaged in the provision and supply of food, water, energy and communications. Many of these activities comprise part of what has been termed the Foundational Economy (FE) – the nation’s essential physical infrastructure, operating infrastructure and public services. In this paper we discuss the experiences of workers in different parts of the FE during the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing on the results of a telephone survey of 1,917 UK employees undertaken in June and July 2020. We find a significant diversity of experiences across the FE. Workers within the material and providential parts of the FE were most likely to have continued working in the same way as before throughout the UK Covid-19 lockdown; being less likely to be furloughed and more likely to remain working at the same location (i.e. remaining in the physical workplace). They were also found to have more confidence in their employment prospects. However, this is balanced against greater concerns about the impact of work on the health of themselves and their family members. There is also evidence that workers in some parts of the FE feel the Covid-19 crisis has led them to ‘Feel more valued by the local community’.


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Sissions, P., Tiwasing, P. & Ferreira, J. 2022, 'Working in the Foundational Economy During Covid-19: Working paper No. 9', Foundational Economy Working Paper, article no: 9. https://pure.sruc.ac.uk/en/publications/working-in-the-foundational-economy-during-covid-19-working-paper

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Last updated: 31 August 2022
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