With the graduating class of 2020 embarking on the next chapter of their lives, the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are interrupting and endangering the lives of billions while causing a sense of anxiety as to “what comes next?” Young people are disproportionately affected by the pandemic as several students had to finish out the school year remotely, causing a major disruption in education and training. Additionally, employment and income losses, along with greater difficulties in finding jobs, are just a few of the struggles that recent graduates are facing.
From lost jobs to family stress, young people around the globe are feeling the acute impacts of mental health and other hardships amid the outbreak of the virus. Many young people are now at risk of being left behind in education, economic opportunities, and health and wellbeing during a stage of their lives that is crucial for development.
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 23%, notes the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder, says that “The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group. If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy is side-lined by a lack of opportunity or skills it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy.” Young people are more likely to be unemployed or to be in precarious job contracts and working arrangements, and thus, lack adequate social protection.
With US jobless claims surpassing 40 million, recent graduates, such as Sonya Okon, 22, are entering a job market subject to a recession with record levels of deprivation and unemployment. “Our generation is already faced with pressure to get a job straight out of school. The pandemic has put this extra weight on our shoulders as we are battling with the current state of the economy” says Okon. “The jobs that are available and in need of help right now, such as remote positions, are locking people into year long contracts. I don’t want to commit to a year of remote work right now; however, I need a job and I want to be able to make my own money to start my next chapter of adulthood” says Okon.
Recent graduates such as Okon feel that there is a great sense of competition because “the people who are a year or two older than us, who got let go from their jobs, are now willing to take a lower pay cut just to get back into the workforce.” Okon says “We are now in competition for these entry level jobs, when people who already have one or two years of experience will have a greater advantage.”