12 Aug COVID 19: Now and Looking Forward – What This Means For Young People.
Written by Xavier Victor Kanu
Looking back to the beginning of the year 2020, there were a lot of expectations and planning. These have been dwarfed considerably by the pandemic which struck almost without warning. It left many governments and organizations to think outside the box on how to steer daily and economic activities with safety, while putting healthcare at utmost priority, so they can survive the times.
This year have seen the call for innovations at every sectors and levels, (at the highest point). Existing businesses have adapted their ways of operations and new businesses were started; many suffered great losses and some surprisedly saw gains.
Over 1 in 6 young people worldwide have stopped working since the start of the crisis, according to ILO. This disproportionate escalation of youth unemployment can only be attributed to the fact that young people are overrepresented in informal employment –77% of employed young people hold informal jobs worldwide – and in job sectors most at risk (ex. tourism, retail trades, personal services) from the COVID-19 shutdown. In light of these negative developments, the quality of jobs for young people will severely deteriorate and temporary contracts will become more prominent.
The COVID-19 outbreak has however triggered detrimental effects on the wellness and mental health of children and young people. The short-term quarantine measures and social distancing turn out to have greater psychological implications for the young population and contribute to exacerbating other household and individual circumstances: personal safety, prospects of job and income losses, medical conditions in the household, social connectedness or trust in other people and in institutions.
According to an OECD survey, more than half of young people express great concerns about their mental health. This requires immediate policy responses and long-term solutions to mitigate harm and proactively improve systems of support for young people and children. These measures may include: providing online resources; advice to general practitioners and youth workers; inclusive telemedicine consultations; and, overall, reinforcing resources for mental health services in the aftermath of the pandemic.
In all these, the role played by young people can not be overemphasized. According to a new UN plan to address COVID-19, young people are some of the most affected by the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts. Nevertheless, youth are also among the most active in global responses: Not only are they on the frontlines as health workers, but they are also advancing health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators, and communicators. As such, decision-makers must commit to ensuring youth voices are part of the solutions for a healthier, safer, and gender-equal world.
Young people today don’t only make up a larger portion of the global population but are also participating more in shaping social movements and discourses. As changemakers, young people can play a crucial role in ensuring that social agendas and developmental approaches are resilient, not only robust but also adaptable, as we look to a period of recovery in the wake of COVID-19. Being digital natives, young people can be pivotal in efforts to connect diverse communities and contexts, amplifying the voices of all people and share their lived realities in inclusive and respectful ways, and foster a greater understanding and empathy towards diverse needs and realities, contributing to a transformative framework for global development in the post-COVID era.
The post-COVID-19 era will require immense creativity and resilience. Young people have a chance to help restructure societal norms as a new paradigm is being built. We are at the helm of the most powerful tools for connection in modern-day history – social media. Therefore, we have a responsibility to use these platforms to speak in favor of equitable healthcare, equality for all minority groups, and hold our leaders accountable to higher standards than before.
Technology has been a great enabler for societies during the pandemic. It has been used to sustain most if not all facets of life including education, remote work, and even virtual parties for relaxation. The post-COVID-19 era will see an increased reliance and realisation of the importance of technology in our day to day lives. Tech will take on a heightened role as the “enabler”. I wish to see it being used to reach more vulnerable groups, such as utilizing drones to deliver food and healthcare products to remote areas.
Skills are very necessary this period. It is not just about what skills young people need, but how they learn them. No matter where we live, whether London or Lagos, we need safe and supportive environments that allow us to learn through experience and where we are enabled to engage and apply ourselves. Furthermore, for those of us growing up in cities today – we need emotional and interpersonal skills as much as technical ones. Skills like empathy, personal resilience, the ability to communicate effectively, cultural intelligence, and decision-making are all critical to thriving in a complex future – and create more equitable, prosperous urban communities where every young person can reach their full potential.
– Foundation Botnar