The pandemic of COVID-19 disease has affected us all. People obviously fear the virus and all the health threats it comes with, including death. Such serious fear is a big factor impacting mental health. But this is a specific situation, as we face a virus disease that is spreading rapidly and is considered as highly contagious. This urged implementation of strict sanitary rules, including limiting personal meetings, wearing face masks and temporary lockdowns with many facilities remaining closed. Poor social life and uncertainty of the nearest future, causing the feeling of lack of control, lead to a notable increase in mental health issues in the global population. (1)
The repeating lockdowns and sanitary rules restricted people’s physical contact. Also, facial expressions are limited due to the obligatory mask-wearing. These are suggested to make it more difficult for a healthy emotional regulation and feeling of empathy. Difficulty in keeping connections to others and to the natural environment during pandemic times may put a big impact on the development of anxiety, depression, stress and post-traumatic stress, loneliness, social isolation, and stigma. (2)
Nevertheless, some groups might occur as more vulnerable to experience all the negative effects caused by the state of isolation and uncertainty. Amongst them, we can find the group known as NEET. That refers to the unemployed young people, aged between 15 and 29, who are neither in education, employment, or training. The imposed restrictions significantly limited their possibilities of finding an activity. Reduced opportunities and social isolation markedly increased the risk of mental health problems among these people. NEETs represented 13,2% of total European Union countries population at the end of June 2021. (3)
At the end of the first quarter of 2020, when the whole pandemic situation was beginning, there were about 2,8 billion unemployed people aged between 15 and 24 in the European Union. In June 2021, this number increased to 3,1 billion. (4) Young people are more likely to be employed in customer-facing industries such as accommodation, tourism, and food services. These are the sectors strongly affected by the crisis and young workers are often first to be let go during staff redundancy. This makes it even more difficult for NEETs to find and sustain a job and long-term unemployment also causes harm to mental health. (5)
As an answer to this situation, there are features that youth employment policies should emphasise. Mitigation of the damages of the situation at the labour market is the prime objective of national governments and EU institutions. Some of the EU initiatives are already addressing these challenges and funding for youth employment has become a key priority in EU budgets. Most EU countries developed targeted youth support programmes already at an early stage, which helped to prevent some of the negative impact on youth employment. Long-lasting effects on the social situation and mental well-being of young people are still uncertain. Nevertheless, thanks to EU support programmes being developed, it is possible that the negative impact of the pandemic crisis on youth employment will be less severe than that of the global financial crisis. (6)
(1) Gobbi, S., Płomecka, M. B., Ashraf, Z., Radziński, P., Neckels, R., Lazzeri, S., et al. (2020). Worsening of preexisting psychiatric conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Front. Psychiatry 11:581426.
(2) Stueck, M. (2021). The pandemic management theory. COVID-19 and biocentric development. Health Psychol. Rep. 9, 101–128.
(3) Eurostat, 2022, Statistics on young people neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET), data extracted: January 2022, online at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/LFSI_NEET_Q__custom_1893742/default/table?lang=en
(4) Eurostat, 2022, Statistics on unemployment (1000), data extracted: January 2022, online at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/LFSQ_UGAD__custom_1894003/default/table?lang=en
(5) Supporting young people’s mental health through the Covid-19crisis, OECD 2021, p.8, data extracted: January 2022, online at: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=1094_1094452-vvnq8dqm9u&title=Supporting-young-people-s-mental-health-through-the-COVID-19-crisis&_ga=2.236017025.1279677299.1623673416-1595378193.1598879284
(6) Konle-Seidl R., Picarella f. (2021) Youth in Europe: Effects of COVID-19 on their economic and social situation. The study requested by the EMPL committee, Luxembourg, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/662942/IPOL_STU(2021)662942_EN.pdf
Natalia Truszkowska, The Polish Farm Advisory and Training Centre