One in six young people in the world lost their job these months, those who kept it saw their working hours fall by 23%, and the training of many more stopped, according to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) with a bleak picture for the “post-COVID generation”.
The study shows that youth, previously especially vulnerable in the labor market and still suffering the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, has been one of the age groups most affected by confinements and other measures to curb COVID- 19, which can have adverse long-term effects.
“COVID-19 only exacerbated the vulnerabilities that young workers already had in the labor market,” sums up the Colombian Susana Puerto, an ILO youth employment expert and responsible for the survey with which much of the data has been extracted. Of the report.
The survey shows that 17% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 worldwide left their jobs during the months of confinement, which would represent at least 73 of the 429 million who previously worked.
The actual number, clarifies the author of the survey, could vary and even be higher, since the survey was conducted through the Internet and many of the most vulnerable young employees do not have access to a networked computer.
In addition to this negative data, 98% of training centers worldwide were closed to face-to-face classes during the peak moments of the pandemic, affecting a good part of the 496 million young people in training.
“These young people will end up postponing their studies or even leaving them, because delaying training generates additional expenses that many will not be able to cover,” emphasizes Puerto.
This, together with the drop in the supply of new jobs that has also produced the health crisis, will generate “a delay in the transition from school to work,” warns the Colombian expert.
All this anticipates an increase in the number of young people who neither study nor work, the so-called “ninis”, who before the current crisis were 267 million, recalled Puerto, who pointed out that more girls are in this situation (31% of the total of young women) than boys (14%).
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the survey also showed that “half of those surveyed feel fear or mistrust towards the future, which opens the possibility of falling into states of anxiety or depression,” the expert warned.
Although the ILO report does not separate data by region, it is feared that Latin America may be one of those with a more uncertain future for young workers, considering that 53% of the economy in these countries is informal, and that three out of four young people working in the world are in this sector.
“These young people do not have direct access to social protection, and that also makes it difficult for them to come up with subsidies and other support measures that are approved, since they are somehow invisible to government databases,” said Puerto.
Search for solutions
To alleviate this situation, the ILO recommends in its report the application of some recipes that were already taken into account after the 2008 crisis, based on “expansionary fiscal policies that can stimulate the economy and support job creation”, in the words of the expert.
Policies that “it is important that they integrate opportunities for young people to make their transition (from training to the labor market) or to reintegrate into education or work,” he said.
Investing in growth sectors, such as technology, and protecting those hardest hit by the crisis (manufacturing, trade and services, real estate, etc.) are other duties to be able to get out of the difficult economic situation that is anticipated and to do so without forgetting the younger workers.
“If we do not invest in young people, the long-term effects on society will be devastating,” warned Puerto, who, like the ILO report, recommended more investment in education and training to face the looming labor crisis.
Many young people could also come to telework, which has had a huge boom with the pandemic, although in the ILO “there is still a debate about the pros and cons” of these activities at home, he acknowledged.