Young people are bearing the economic burden of coronavirus - protecting their future is a national emergency

Now more than ever, we need to talk about young people.

As a result of coronavirus, young people are more likely to have already lost their job or been given fewer hours of work. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that young people under the age of 25 are 2.5 times as likely to work in a sector that has now shut down - that makes up 30 per cent of all employed young people under the age of 25. Youth unemployment could potentially rise to two million after this crisis.

The need for an emergency approach is clear. Tackling the aftermath of this pandemic - the national recovery - will be just as much a national effort as tackling the pandemic in the first place.

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like youth employment had been "solved", down around half from its peak after the last recession. But still, hundreds of thousands of young people were not in education, employment o training, and three quarters of them had been in this situation for at least a year. They were also twice as likely to have grown up in poverty.

The evidence relating to "scarring effects" shows that young people who spend long periods of time unemployed go on to earn less, have worse health and are likelier to be unemployed in the future. As well as the extra financial costs associated with Universal Credit, unemployment is a drag on the wider economy; young people who have spent a spell out of the labour market tend to be less productive once they are back in it.

The personal and economic risks associated with unemployment will not hit many more people, younger and older. This week's employment data shows that, before the pandemic, we had record levels of employment. Now, we have record levels of new benefit claims. Research from the Learning and Work Institute suggests that five years of employment growth may have been wiped out in a month.

Once the medical crisis passes, we cannot afford a five year wait to undo this damage. For a start, there are hundreds of thousands of young people leaving schools, colleges and universities this summer, entering the labour market at the worst possible time in a century. As the Resolution Foundation has pointed out, unemployment is about fewer people entering work, not just higher numbers losing jobs. So any strategy to tackle unemployment needs to address the issues faced by people looking for their first jobs.

The lockdown may not be over, but it's not too early to plan for what comes next. We need to take a step back, and think about how to ensure that the next 12 to 18 months work for young people. We need to start planning now for the services we'll need for the long-term unemployed as the economy reopens.

We hear a lot about job retention schemes, but we also need to think about what a healthy labour market might look like after the lockdown. The Department for Work and Pensions is much underappreciated for its work keeping the benefits system running for the many more people now reliant on it, but we also need to think about routes from welfare to work when the time comes. And we need to think about the targets and goals we set for the national recovery.

Many of us have seen crises before, but for young people this unprecedented time is especially daunting. As one person said to use recently: "With the number of companies closing or furloughing staff, I am worried that they won't begin to hire people again for a while. I can't see a world where I will be able to progress in my chosen career any time soon."

As we move to economic recovery, we need to prioritise those young people who find themselves in need of support, and secure their place in the national recovery.

The Youth Employment Group brings together over 70 charities, researchers and others across sectors focussed on how Covid-19 will affect young people's employment opportunities. It is jointly run by Impetus, Youth Futures Foundation, Prince's Trust, Youth Employment UK and the Institute for Employment Studies.

Samantha Windett is the Director of Policy at Impetus., , , ,

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