Introducing our new report: “Beyond Lockdown: the ‘pandemic scar’ on young people”
Beyond Lockdown: the youth perspective
From the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was clear that lockdown measures were going to deeply impact life as we knew it. However, for a long time, the specific impact on youth was overlooked. It was only months after, when the first data sets on increasing youth unemployment became available, and new research shed light on how the pandemic was affecting young people beyond our physical health, that policy makers and media alike started to pay attention to youth.
Since then, we've read headlines about the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on youth, young people losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, students having to queue at food banks, and mental health becoming a second pandemic. And yet, the focus so far has been on the short term. What does this all mean for young people’s future prospects? What is going to happen beyond the lockdown?
With our new report, “Beyond Lockdown: the ‘pandemic scar’ on young people’, we sought to go beyond the immediate impact of the pandemic, and analyse the youth-specific medium and long-term consequences of Covid-19 in Europe, with a focus on three key areas: work and income; education and learning; and mental health and well being.
Our research is based on the findings of a survey of 4,500 young people across Europe as well as focus groups to get more detailed feedback from young people on their experiences. We also used this report to go one step further to investigate promising practices as well as gaps in the institutional response, and identify key recommendations for the way forward.
Our key findings on employment, education, and mental health
So what did we find out? According to our research, there are already identifiable impacts on young people's social and economic situation, and overall well being. Moreover, intersectionality plays a crucial role too, as young people from marginalised backgrounds are more severely affected in nearly all areas. If left addressed, these impacts risk leaving a lifelong “pandemic scar” on young people.
Work and income: young people have experienced considerable loss of work and income as a result of unemployment and reduction in working hours, with marginalised youth twice as likely to be affected by job loss. Despite this, less than 1% of national COVID-19 economic policy responses in the EU and UK targeted young people.
Education and learning: 2 out of 3 students believe they are learning less as a result of school and university closures To date, ensuring the quality of education has not been a priority in policy responses, and very few initiatives have focused on addressing the long-term educational impact.
Mental health and wellbeing: Nearly 2 out of 3 young people may be affected by anxiety or depression as a result of the pandemic, with pre-existing inequalities causing marginalised youth to be disproportionately impacted. Yet, we were unable to identify any substantial responses from national policy-makers to supporting young people's mental health during and beyond the pandemic.
What are the possible long term effects?
Loss of work and income, missing school and education are immediate impacts of COVID-19, but they can have even longer-term consequences. These include reduce educational outcomes, a higher risk of long-term unemployment, lower pay over the life course, and social exclusion. Periods of poor mental health and wellbeing during this pandemic may have lasting effects on young people well beyond the lockdown. Importantly all of these issues are interconnected and feedback loops can amplify the impacts of each one, for example poor mental health can affect a young person's career chances and education.
A sustainable and youth-inclusive recovery is now crucial for a group that has still not fully recovered from the 2008 financial and economic crisis. To this end, we recommend policy makers to:
- Develop recovery plans which fully address long-term impacts of the pandemic and include a strong intersectional dimension to support young people in all their diversity.
- Strengthen and invest in quality job creation for young people and outreach initiatives towards the most marginalised. Improve the quality and accessibility of remote and digital education, and focus on school-to-work transitions, particularly for those leaving education in the coming years.
- Increase access to mental health and wellbeing support for young people, also by recognising the link between socio-economic factors and mental health Governments and institutions must act now to tackle the long-term impacts of today’s crisis and protect young people’s rights.