Precarious employment and mental health: forthcoming research insights from the YOUTHShare project

According to the ILO[1], the pandemic has led to the sharpest global decline in employment since the Great Depression of 1929, with young people being disproportionately affected. The report estimates that youth employment declined by 8.7% in 2020, compared to 3.7% for adults. Young people are particularly affected by job losses in industries such as hospitality, tourism, and retail, which have been hit hard by the pandemic-related measures. A study[2] by the COVID-19_Regional_Labour team, an initiative developed by YouthShare researchers as a response to the pandemic, showed that in the South Aegean, employers in the above sectors that were affected by the suspension, accounted for nearly 80% of the total number of employers in these sectors.

Employment and mental health seem to be inextricably linked[3]. Unemployment heavily affects the mental health of younger generations, by increasing feelings of insecurity, stress, and anxiety, thus often leading to isolation, and decreased social interaction. These lead to social segmentation and further unemployment enhancement, hence generating a feedback loop of precariousness. This two-way relationship between employment and mental health emerges, even when the research focuses primarily on employment. The forthcoming paper of the YOUTHShare research team “In what way a ‘Guarantee for youth’? NEETs entrapped by labour market policies in the European Union” highlights the indirect implications of the Youth Guarantee action plan to the mental health of young people in Spain and Italy.

The first point concerns the term “NEET” in Spanish (‘Ni estudia, ni trabaja’ (‘Neither studies, nor works’)). This term is used pejoratively by some people to describe a generation of (young) people who are financially dependent on their parents and are seen as a drain on their parents’ resources. Therefore, they are stigmatized and face a form of exclusion by society. The second point stressed, concerns the forced relocation of young NEETs either to other regions of the same country or to other countries. This means that NEETs are often separated from their families, which affects their mental health on two bases: firstly, because the bond between family members is very strong, especially in Mediterranean countries, and a possible break in this bond can increase homesickness and depression; and secondly, because of the insecurity of a new job – usually non-permanent and poorly paid – in an unfamiliar place.

Summing up, good mental health and employment opportunities are very closely related. Good and prosperous employment is a very important factor that can have a positive impact on mental health. However, current policies do not seem to have contributed satisfactorily to this issue, and the problem of lack of sustainable employment for young people persists.


[2] «Αυξάνεται πάρα πολύ η ανασφάλεια και η επισφάλεια και για τους εργαζόμενους και για όσους αναζητούν δουλειά», Εφημερίδα των συντακτών, 23-24 Μαΐου 2020



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