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June 2, 2020

Brave new world

Editorial

 
June 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has already changed the world. According to the UN and the ILO in a fresh study, its impact has most widely affected young people with a possible influence on work opportunities and career options for decades to come. The ILO chief has said that as the world gets over the pandemic, a lot of people are simply going to be left behind – especially the young. He has also warned of permanent scarring as a result of their isolation and the rising unemployment rate. Unemployment around the world stood at 13.6 percent for the youth in 2019, far higher than for any other group. 267 million young people were neither employed nor in education and training; the ILO believes the coronavirus will now reduce working hours by 10.7 percent globally during the second quarter of 2020 compared to the final three months of 2019. This is the equivalent of 3.5 million jobs. Young women, among the young people who it is predicted will be worst hit, have most to lose. In Canada, for example, the overall jobless rate rose six percentage points from February to April. For young men, it swelled to 14.3 percentage points and for young women by 20.4 points. This is a significant difference. It means it may take years, even decades, for women to catch up and regain their place at workplaces.

The survey by the ILO has found that of the people aged 29 and under who had been working before the pandemic hit, 17 percent had been forced to stop as a result of the crisis. For others, working hours were cut drastically. The ILO warns that young people are facing a triple shock from the crisis, destroying their employment, disrupting education and training and making it more difficult to enter the labour market or move between jobs. It has noted that around half of the world’s students expect their education to be delayed while 10 percent believe they will now be unable to complete their training at all. Sixty percent of young women and 53 percent of young men who were surveyed viewed their career prospects with uncertainty or fear.

The report notes that in countries where testing and tracing of Covid cases has been strong, it helped prevent market disruption with a lower average fall in working hours. This is linked to greater public confidence while the process of testing and tracking also created new jobs which could be targeted by young people. The survey is just one insight into the possible changes the Covid-19 crisis could bring for all of us. We do not know what other changes will come. But certainly, young people everywhere, most at the starting mark of their careers, are most at risk of losing jobs or being laid off while the disruption in education has forced millions to either turn to online classes or possibly delay higher education or drop out of it as the job market shrinks and families search for more income.