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May 5, 2020

Youth in the post-COVID world

Islamabad

 
May 5, 2020

As I write this opinion piece my heart goes out to the millions around the world who were due to graduate from their universities this year. As they enter one of the worst job markets in recent history they must adapt to these uncertain times.

The first thing for all individuals entering the job market is to understand that the virus has impacted us in many ways which we were not prepared for. Had Marx been alive today he surely would have been laughing at the sight of distressed economies, which had grown only after exploiting millions. But if one was to look at the silver lining of this issue, one would realise that now is the best time to explore oneself. Fresh out of universities no employer will ask for one’s experience as they’ll just be entering the job market. This virus has given many individuals time, time to truly explore themselves. As conventional jobs of the future are most likely to be replaced by automation, many must innovate to earn their ways. More and more will turn to social media to showcase their hidden talents.

The youth must take this opportunity by exploring radical options rather than sticking to conservative ideals.

If one was to take a glance at what measures are being taken by economies around the globe to curb the impact of the coronavirus, the use of technology comes at the forefront. As Google and Apple join hands in helping governments trace potential victims of the virus, it goes to show the leaps and bounds the power of innovation. Henceforth the first skill which is imperative for the youth of today is to understand programming languages. They must treat languages such as Python and Java as they treat any foreign language. Luckily, online courses are abundantly available and can be accessed free of cost on websites such as Coursera and others.

As countries want to limit the impact of future pandemics on their economic conditions, artificial intelligence and automation are certain to increase in even more important than they already were in the pre-covid era. A two-year study from McKinsey Global Institute, conducted in 2019, suggested that by 2030, intelligent agents and robots could replace as much as 30 per cent of the world’s current human labour. COVID-19 will undeniably fasten the pace of this advance. We must future-proof ourselves by working on projects which are least likely to be impacted by technological advances.

Furthermore, work-from-home is now an active part of what a job is. Remote working was treated with scepticism in the past and company policies were not catering to this. Due to the virus, this has become a necessity. Subsequently, this has opened up the workplace to millions of people. More companies will be hiring overseas individuals at a fraction of what it costs for hiring locals.

To ensure that individuals, such as ourselves in developing countries, can make the most of this, we must develop our skills. Data analysis is one of the most in-demand jobs around the world. We must familiarise ourselves with this.

Innovation will be the key to survival in these torrid times. As internet availability expands around the globe, more people will be able to learn the necessary skills, which previously had significant barriers to entry. Platforms such as YouTube and websites mentioned above will make e-learning the next biggest change in our lives. This will mean even more competition for jobs, which previously were thought only to be open to individuals who had acquired formal education. Henceforth, now is the time to differentiate oneself by mastering skills to ensure that once the economy opens and opportunities are less, one can get employment.

Most importantly, however, the youth holds the key to the future. What this virus has showcased is that economic growth since World War 2 has been unstable. Regardless of commendable efforts by countries to take their people out from poverty, nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. The youth must take it upon themselves to ensure that climate change, a reality far nearer and deadly than any virus, is combatted with full vigour. Unchecked capitalism must become a thing of the past and stricter regulation must be in place by governments.

Health care and education must trump all military needs for the future to ensure that the post-covid world is not only safer but better than what it normally is.

The writer is an Economics and Mathematics graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at aam­[email protected]