Jobless youth risk lifelong ‘scarring’ from pandemic


By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA  – Young people who have lost jobs or schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic risk carrying “scarring effects” throughout their working lives unless governments provide immediate support, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday.

An ILO poll of 12,000 youths in 112 countries showed in May that more than one in six people under 24 had stopped working during the pandemic, while the U.N. agency said in its latest report that more than 70% of students had also seen closures of schools, universities and training centres.

It urged governments to help reintegrate jobless youth into labour markets, or provide educational training and unemployment insurance benefits.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has a systematic, deep and disproportionate impact on young people,” Sangheon Lee, director of ILO’s employment policy department, told a news briefing.

Evidence from previous crises suggests young people who lack access to job opportunities when entering the labour market face ongoing consequences throughout their working lives, he said. “That is what we call ‘scarring effects’.”

Young women and youths in low-income countries are among the hardest hit, he said.

“Unless urgent action is taken, young people are likely to suffer severe and long-standing impacts from the pandemic. We believe there is a genuine risk of the ‘lockdown generation’ who actually will be scarred throughout their working lives,” Lee said.

The pandemic has left 1 in 8 young students without any access to education or training, although those in wealthier countries had more access to online classes, Lee said.

“It’s important to remember that risk is not just about the job losses,” he said.

“Even for those who have remained employed after the onset of the pandemic, their working hours fell by nearly a quarter and two out of five young people reported a reduction in their incomes,” he said.

Some 17% of young people reported suffering from anxiety and depression, nearly twice the rate as those still employed, Lee said. “It is not surprising at all that their mental well-being suffered a lot,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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