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 percent, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
According to the ILO Monitor, Covid-19 and the world of work: 4th edition, 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 pandemic is inflicting a triple shock on young people: destroying their employment, 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 percent, 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 (NEET) worldwide. Those 15-24-year olds who were employed 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. 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-19 economy," said ILO director-general Guy Ryder.
The Monitor calls for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support youth, including broad-based employment/training guarantee programmes in developed countries, and employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.
"The pandemic is inflicting a real shock on Bangladesh's vulnerable youth population," said Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of ILO Bangladesh.
"Job prospects have vastly reduced. For youth to be provided paths for positive future, education and skills training need to be greatly invested in. Sadly, young women workers – who were already struggling in low-paid and informal sector jobs – are being worst hit."
"The ILO is working together with the government to design and develop education and skills development schemes, entrepreneurship training, as well as employment and training guarantee schemes that specifically target young people, particularly those who are the most vulnerable," he added.
The 4th edition of the Monitor also looks at measures to create a safe environment for returning to work. It says that rigorous testing and tracing (TT) 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 percent. There are three reasons for this: TT reduces reliance on strict confinement measures; promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment; helps minimise operational disruption at the workplace.
Besides, testing and tracing can itself create new jobs, even if temporary, which can be targeted towards youth and other priority groups.
The Monitor highlights the importance of managing data privacy concerns. Cost is also a factor, but the benefit-to-cost ratio of TT is "highly favourable".
The Monitor also updates the estimate for the decline in working hours in the first and second quarters of 2020, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. An estimated 4.8 percent of working hours were lost during Q1 2020 (equivalent to approximately 135 million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week). This represents a slight upward revision of around 7 million jobs since the third edition of the Monitor. The estimated number of jobs lost in Q2 remain unchanged at 305 million.
From a regional perspective, the Americas (13.1 percent), and Europe and Central Asia (12.9 percent) present the largest losses in hours worked in Q2.
The Monitor reiterates its call for immediate and urgent measures to support workers and enterprises along with 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.