Youth Employment and COVID19

Young people – alongside women, migrants, the LGBTQI community and disabled people – are among those most impacted by the Coronavirus led economic crisis.

Recent economic shocks, such as the 2008 global financial crisis, have shown that young people were among those most affected by unemployment (often more than double compared to the average unemployment rate), especially in Southern European countries.

Unfortunately, this time predictions show even more worrying trends, while one has to take into account that unemployment rates had not yet even recovered to the pre-2008 levels (the EU youth unemployment rate in 2019 was still circa 14%, European Commission 2019). Furthermore, there is an alarming number of youngsters not in employment, education or training (NEET’s), an estimated 2.4 million at the end of 2017.

Failing to invest in youth policies nowadays leads to a lack of innovation in the future. We need investment from the beginning of the crisis in youth policies. Back in 2008, instruments which should bring back young people into the labour market were only introduced 5 years later, after the financial crisis, when the consequences were already felt. This time, we have to keep the young in the labour market and prevent the rise of youth unemployment. This way, we would also prevent major financial efforts to increase the levels of youth employment”, commented CESI Youth Representative, Matthäus Fandrejewski.

Another risk factor is the fact that young people and are overrepresented in the gig economy or in atypical work, such as part-time work, fixed-term work or temporary work. Being less protected  by labour law of social security schemes, economic shocks increase these workers’ vulnerability both in terms of employment, income and social protection.

Furthermore, the COVID19 crisis is likely to have a bigger impact on youth unemployment and underemployment since young workers are overrepresented in the sectors most affected by the pandemic such as retail or tourism. This also concerns those who are studying and who use their summer break to work and save money for the next academic year.

The economic globalisation and the logic of market competition have contributed to an increase of non-standard work, which favour precariousness of employment, income and working conditions. Unfortunately, many young people do not recognize their precariousness as such anymore, due to a lack of awareness and a changing world of work, which is truly alarming. Taking this precarious employment as normal employment might lead to a long-term standardization of precarious work for youth.

This has the potential to further increase the social divide by driving more and more young people into poverty, in-work poverty and social exclusion. This is particularly worrying since the first years of a career have an exponential impact on the lifetime earnings. Therefore, entering the labour market during an economic recession has the potential to damage a young person’s career and life, not only in the short-term, but also in the long-term.

Against this background, CESI Youth advocates for stronger youth policies in light of the COVID19 crisis, and an allocation of more funds to programmes such as apprenticeships, traineeships, internships or the Youth Guarantee.

Apprenticeship or VET-schemes in particular can be truly valuable during an economic crisis since they address labour market skills’ mismatches and prepare young people to enter the workforce by providing them with targeted skills.

For students which are in apprenticeship programmes, fair and transparent conditions about the existing programmes are needed– especially when it comes to programmes which are currently on their finishing line and to students who find themselves on risk to drop out of their programmes. Against this background, no apprentice should drop out of the existing programs.

The so-called Youth Guarantee can have a fundamental role in fostering youth employment by implementing wage compensation tools for internships, apprenticeships or traineeships. It therefore requires additional funding. In this context, it is also important to ensure equal access to opportunities.

“It is now the time to reinforce the Youth Guarantee and make it an effective tool for young people in a short and longtime perspective – it is time to offer quality jobs, traineeships and further education”, Matthäus Fandrejewski added.

In this light, it is also important to strengthen the role of youth organisations and social partners in the design and implementation of such schemes, since they bring the know-how and insight into the day-to-day struggles of young people. This would also lead to more democratic and transparent policy-making and would better meet the needs of the young.

Young people and young workers cannot once again take the hardest hit in this economic crisis. Youth empowerment and support for youth policies are fundamental to the development of a more democratic, inclusive, politically engaged and civic-minded society. This is unlikely to happen if young people remain financially dependent on their families. The full support of the youth ensures social inclusion, equal access to opportunities, improvement of the welfare state, and, not least, it enables everyone to reach their full potential and creativity.

These days young people are showing solidarity to their communities by taking care of the elder, in hospitals, care homes or simply their neighbourhoods, by stepping back from social life, which for some might mean being completely alone away from friends and family, or even by organising joint initiatives to collect donations and help the most vulnerable. Please don’t forget us in the aftermath of the crisis!”, Matthäus Fandrejewski concluded.