‘Generation Lockdown’ Needs Targeted Work Support Policies – Eurasia Review

Nations around the world are guilty of ‘political inertia’ when it comes to supporting young people who have lost their jobs or who will find it difficult to enter the workforce due to the pandemic, new study finds from the University of Cambridge.

Experts argue that many countries have simply ‘repackaged’ existing – and often already failing – policies without the funding or retooling needed to benefit those under 24: the world’s population hardest hit by the economic consequences of COVID- 19.

In the report commissioned by the United Nations International Labor Organization, the Cambridge team calls on countries to move beyond employment policies that “yo-yo” with every wave of the virus, and to implement longer-term interventions aimed directly at young people.

The report suggests that since the start of the pandemic, more than one in six young people worldwide have been made redundant or stopped working, with serious repercussions on their mental health and well-being. Many young people were employed in the areas most affected by the pandemic.

More than 40% of all young people with jobs before the pandemic – some 178 million young workers – worked in the sectors most affected: retail, services and tourism. In fact, tourism alone suffered financial losses eleven times greater than the financial crash of 2008.

Global youth employment fell by more than double the rate for older adults in 2020 (8.7% vs. 3.7%), with job loss particularly concentrated among young women in developing countries. middle income. The global employment rate for women has fallen 5% over the past year, compared to 3.9% for men.

Of the 132 countries that adopted 580 fiscal and economic measures to support businesses during the Covid crisis, only 12% were aimed at improving women’s economic security by ensuring that female-dominated sectors receive financial support – mainly by Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.

In some low-income countries, more young women are reported to be turning to sex work, contributing to the increase in HIV cases as well as unintended pregnancies.

Even among high-income countries, the impact on youth livelihoods has varied considerably. For example, between February and April 2020 – as the virus was taking hold – there was an 11.7 percentage point reduction in labor force participation among young Canadians, a 7.5 percentage point drop in Canada. United States, but only a drop of 1.9 points in South Korea.

Many of those fortunate enough to keep a job have seen their incomes drop dramatically. In May of last year, young people around the world who were still working lost almost a quarter of their hours on average (23%).

“Young people face distinct challenges that put them at a disadvantage compared to older people when it comes to finding work after a pandemic,” said co-author of the report, Dr Adam Coutts, from the Department of Sociology. from Cambridge.

“These include less work experience and financial capital, weaker social networks and higher levels of working poverty. They are also much more likely to have to make ends meet through informal cash work.

“Young people leaving school are often not entitled to unemployment benefits or leave schemes. This has left many young people falling through the cracks of political interventions, ”Coutts said.

Co-author Dr Garima Sahai of the Cambridge Department of Geography said: “Young women have been particularly affected by the pandemic who have suffered greater job losses, an increase in unpaid care work, the phantom pandemic of gender-based violence to name just a few effects. ”

The researchers argue that “generation lockdown” could cope with prolonged periods of unemployment, making it difficult to re-enter the labor market and be overtaken by “younger and better-qualified cohorts.”

“Young people have been forced to stay at home, stuck with their parents, cut off from friends and partners,” said University of Cambridge co-author Dr Anna Barford. “Anxiety, stress and depression have skyrocketed among young people around the world. “

“For those who don’t have easy access to internet connections or laptops, finishing school or looking for work has sometimes been almost impossible,” she said.

“Repeated epidemics in regions ranging from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America will deplete household savings, reduce opportunities and decrease generation lock-in aspirations. “

The report highlights the fact that young people migrate to find work and their place in the world. The pandemic has ended long-established migration patterns: from young Guatemalans heading north to Mexico, to young Zimbabweans moving to South Africa. Young immigrants were also much more likely to lose their jobs due to lower average incomes.

Most national governments have proposed economy-wide fiscal stimulus as well as labor market interventions, ranging from reduced working hours to temporary leave schemes and increased social protection.

Some governments have offered lifesavers directly to sectors that support the youth labor market, such as India’s Emergency Loan Support, which focuses on wholesale and retail, manufacturing, rental and business services (with some 100 million young people in the Asia and Pacific region estimated to be employed in these sectors).

However, researchers say only a few countries have deployed policy responses tailored to the specific needs of young people affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

These included one-time cash transfers from South Korea to young job seekers and paid apprenticeships supported by the government in Malaysia, while the EU stepped up its ‘Youth Guarantee’ program: Member States targeting to provide anyone under the age of 30 with an education, a work placement or a job within four months of becoming unemployed.

The researchers argue that without ‘youth-sensitive’ employment policies, intergenerational inequalities will be further exacerbated during the period of pandemic recovery.

While unemployment policies tend to focus entirely on professional integration as quickly as possible, the authors call for more ALMPs – Active Labor Market Policies – targeting more young people – which provide support to boost employment. employability, from vocational training to individual guidance for job seekers. , alongside support for the mental health and well-being of young people.

An example highlighted by the authors of the report is the Indonesian “pre-employment card”, the Kartu Pre-Kerja, with $ 1.3 billion allocated to finance vocational training for two million young workers. In contrast, Mexico has cut spending on ALMPs to transfer funds to other parts of the pandemic response.

“Holistic policy responses require that government departments and ministries of health and other sectors work together more effectively,” Coutts said. “The pandemic forced them to work together. These new networks and interdepartmental links must be maintained.

“Coordination should extend outside government to NGOs, unions, employers’ organizations, policy makers and young people themselves, in order to design better and more effective post-pandemic support for young people. who faced 18 months of social and economic chaos, ”he added.

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