More than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by, on average, 23%, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
According to a report, titled 'ILO Monitor: Covid-19 and the World of Work', the youth are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting young women, more than young men.
The ILO says the pandemic is inflicting a “triple shock” on young people by not only impacting on their employment, but by also disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market, or to move between jobs.
At 13.6%, the youth unemployment rate in 2019 was already higher than for any other group. There were around 267-million young people not in employment, education or training worldwide.
Those employed and aged between 15 and 24 were also more likely to be in forms of work that leave them vulnerable, such as low-paid occupations, informal sector work or as migrant workers.
“The Covid-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group,” comments ILO director-general Guy Ryder, warning that if significant and immediate action is not taken to improve the situation, “the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades”.
“If [the youth’s] talent and energy is sidelined by a lack of opportunity or skills, it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to rebuild a better, post-Covid economy,” he adds.
The report therefore calls for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support the youth, including through broad-based employment and training guarantee programmes in developed countries, as well as employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.
The fourth edition of the report also looks at measures to create a safe environment for returning to work and says that rigorous testing and tracing of Covid-19 infections is “strongly related to lower labour market disruption… [and] substantially smaller social disruptions than confinement and lockdown measures”.
In countries with strong testing and tracing, the average fall in working hours is reduced by as much as 50%, and there are three reasons for this, the report notes.
The reasons are that testing and tracing reduces the reliance on strict confinement measures; promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment; and helps minimise operational disruption at the workplace.
In addition, testing and tracing can itself create new jobs, even if temporary, which can be targeted towards the youth and other priority groups.
The report further highlights the importance of managing data privacy concerns. Cost is also a factor, but the benefit-to-cost ratio of testing and tracing is “highly favourable”.
“Creating an employment-rich recovery that also promotes equity and sustainability means getting people and enterprises working again as soon as possible, in safe conditions,” says Ryder, noting that “testing and tracing can be an important part of the policy package if we are to fight fear, reduce risk and get our economies and societies moving again quickly.”
The report also updates the estimate for the decline in working hours in the first and second quarters of this year, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. An estimated 4.8% of working hours were lost during the first quarter of this year, which is equivalent to about 135-million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week.
This represents a slight upward revision of about seven-million jobs since the third edition of the report. The estimated number of jobs lost in the second quarter remains unchanged at 305-million.
From a regional perspective, the Americas (13.1%), and Europe and Central Asia (12.9%) present the largest losses in hours worked in the second quarter.
The report therefore reiterates its call for immediate and urgent measures to support workers and enterprises along the ILO’s four-pillar strategy: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; relying on social dialogue for solutions.