In the framework of the Cowork4YOUTH project’s focus on youth employment policies, the COVID-19 pandemic is an important factor that has significantly influenced policymakers in the production of new policies and the development of existing ones.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently published a report titled “Promoting youth employment during COVID-19: A review of policy responses”, which records and examines the results of various measures against youth unemployment implemented by 20 countries all over the world, including Spain, France, Germany and Sweden. The sample was composed of a diverse selection of countries in order to cover different types of labour markets and welfare approaches, including high-income, medium-income and low-income countries.
COVID-19 overwhelmed every aspect of people’s lives and particularly the labour market. Even countries with relatively low infection and casualty rates have suffered serious backlash, particularly in financial terms. According to the ILO report, it appears very likely that there will be long-term effects on the younger generation of workers, with scars being even deeper than the ones caused by previous recessions, given the duration, breadth and magnitude of the pandemic. Sectors mostly staffed by younger workers are expected to be particularly affected, such as the tourism sector in many countries. In terms of entire countries, the lack of a strong support system for the transition from education to work is expected to be a determining factor for the severity of the impact.
Youth labour markets were particularly affected by the COVID-19 crisis: youth employment in 2020 fell by 8.7%, whereas for older age groups the drop was 3.7% (ILO 2021a). These changes were accompanied by a rise in inactivity rates that seems to account for the biggest share of employment losses. Unemployment statistics alone cannot accurately describe the varied and uneven impact of the pandemic across different countries. Particularly in countries where welfare benefits are low, leading to little interest in officially registering as unemployed, the effect of the pandemic on young people may in fact be better reflected in NEET rates.
The report refers to four categories of measures taken regarding youth employment in the context of the COVID-19 crisis: (1) direct employment support and subsidies for hiring, with specific hiring subsidies for (a) job creation targeted directly at younger people, in tandem with (b) start-up subsidies for younger entrepreneurs; (2) social protection and income support, meaning better access to and greater coverage by social protection; (3) work-based learning, training and vocational education; and (4) employment services, where policy responses entailed, among other things, initiatives to increase the outreach and service provision to young people.
In this framework, the European Youth Guarantee is cited in the report, as a set of measures that typically respond to the above categories.
The report refers to three main dimensions of the pandemic’s negative effect on young people: (1) Disruption to education, training and work-based learning; (2) the fact that new labour market entrants and young job seekers face multiple difficulties; (3) lower quality of employment, in addition to job and income losses. In conclusion, the report proposes five elements comprising a more comprehensive agenda for youth active labour market policy: youth-targeted wage subsidies; public employment programmes for youth; support for job searching; extended access to training, reskilling and upskilling youth; and investing in youth entrepreneurship.
To read the full report, click here: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_849466.pdf
ILO (2021a). ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Seventh edition. International Labour Organization (ILO). https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_767028.pdf