I am an alumni of the ‘Corona Class’ of 2020!
At the beginning of May I was scheduled to graduate from university and then bam! Covid-19 hit our shores and my graduation ceremony was cancelled – alongside my job and travel prospects at the time. While the effects of Covid-19 are intergenerational, there is a particular group of society that is set to be affected disproportionately by the unfolding economic crisis – that group is young people.
If we take a flashback to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, we see that young adults faced the greatest unemployment setbacks and benefited least from the recovery phase.
On an international scale, the UN’s International Labour Organisation states that more than one in six young people aged 18-29 have stopped working since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. A statistic that is higher than any other group.
Then, if we look at our national statistics from the Ministry of Social Development, we see that between February and April 2020, the number of 18-19-year olds receiving the Job Seeker Work Ready benefit increased by 46 percent and among 20-24-year-olds 62 percent.
These figures all emphasise the particular vulnerability of young people during this time. Lack of opportunity is of serious concern to those who are new school leavers, university graduates and young adults with little work experience. Essentially, we risk marginalising a generation of young people as they navigate a dwindling labour market.
The needs of young people need to be directly targeted in any economic recovery plan. A specific national response is necessary alongside local solutions. Saying this, I in no way mean to demean those from a different generation affected by this virus crisis. Rather, it is my intention to draw special attention to a particularly vulnerable age group, in order to facilitate a constructive discussion about how we can engage, support and equip young people for the long run ahead.
Speaking from experience, it is not easy dealing with the uncertainty, but from it can come unique lessons in resilience and strength in the face of adversity – lessons which previous generations have experienced due to historic events. And remember, there are supportive local services that can provide the mental or practical help needed during this season of instability and uncertainty.
Finally, it is important to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It just may involve changing tracks and being open minded to embracing a new, unforeseen journey.