Why the minutes and the months matter most to young people during the COVID-19 crisis

_youth

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Rory Daniels, Global Shaper, London Hub,


  • Vulnerable young people will need the most urgent support during and after the pandemic.
  • Economic insecurity and the educational fallout will affect many more for years to come.
  • Here’s what policy-makers should focus on to minimise the harms being done to young people.

The UK is now emerging slowly from a lockdown that began on 23 March. After 10 weeks of lockdown extensions, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that this crisis is one in which citizens are living week-to-week, simply going about their normal lives for six days and then pausing for reflection on the seventh.

 

In reality, however, very few possess this luxury. For countless young people across both London and the UK as a whole, it is the minutes and the months that matter most during the COVID-19 crisis.

The minutes

Even though lockdown restrictions are increasingly eased, the same cannot be said for the pressures facing youth mental health services. It is vulnerable young people, particularly those most at risk from what The National Youth Agency (NYA) labels the ‘toxic trio’ of addiction, mental health issues and domestic abuse, who will require the most substantial and pressing support during the pandemic. In an emergency situation, this support will need to be accessible within minutes, not weeks (or worse). Unfortunately, the 2007/8 global financial crisis has left state-provided mental health services severely under-funded and plagued by endless waiting lists. The recent addition of increased demand and rising worker illnesses have only exacerbated these issues.

Even more worrying is the scale of this challenge. Charities have identified over one million young people who will be “at risk at home” during lockdown, whilst a recent NYA report found that 84% of young people have reported “worse mental health problems following school closures or due to not being able to access mental health support”.

The minutes will also matter for young people facing economic insecurity. Many do not have the luxury of waiting three weeks to secure their next paycheck, with a staggering 36% of 15-to-24-year olds across London regularly slipping into poverty after paying their housing costs. The corresponding figure for the whole of England is 26%. This is compounded by the fact that it is young people who are disproportionately affected by joblessness due to COVID-19. The Resolution Foundation, a think tank focused on improving the standard of living for low- and middle-income families, have found that prior to the outbreak, almost 40% of 16-to-24-year olds worked in sectors that are now on lockdown. This rises to over 60% for those born after 2000.

Workers aged 16-24 are twice as likely to work in shutdown sectors as older workers
Workers aged 16-24 are twice as likely to work in shutdown sectors as older workers
Image: Resolution Foundation

The months

Minutes aside, the virus also threatens to affect the lives of young people across the UK for months and years to come. For those in secondary and post-16 education, the indefinite closure of all schools and cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams has thrown the future of many pupils into great uncertainty. The Prime Minister has stated that all pupils will still “get the qualifications they need for university”, but the government is yet to devise an appropriate way of putting this into practice. Even if school students do manage to make it to university, however, the prospect of a decent education is still under threat. Times Higher Education claims that due to financial uncertainties, many UK universities “could be at risk of permanent closure” with some having already announced plans to limit spending and cut staff. This will only compound the misery of the countless students fighting to reclaim thousands of pounds spent on now-vacated university accommodation.

Those due to leave education will be impacted by the virus too, with many likely to suffer the long-term wage scarring effects associated with entering a decimated labour market. This means years of pay freezes, slim promotion prospects and reduced earnings. Just this month alone, research carried out by The Learning and Work Institute, Youth Futures Foundation and The Resolution Foundation have all concluded that the effects of the UK’s impending recession will disproportionately, negatively, and indefinitely impact young people. The NYA has subsequently warned that ‘unless urgent action is taken to support vulnerable children and young people, whose needs are often unseen, the long-term damage caused will be unimaginable’.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

The measures to take

Whilst the majority of government policies have, quite rightly, so far focused predominantly on saving the lives of older adults, this is not an excuse to disregard the pressing needs of our young population. Therefore, both during and long after the virus, the government must ensure that young people have the short-and long-term security they deserve. Measures could include sending support and resources to those one million young people identified as being ‘at risk at home’, similar to the supermarkets’ grocery delivery initiative for older and vulnerable adults. The government could also introduce schemes that incentivise key industries to employ the 40% of young people previously working in ‘lockdown sectors’. To protect social mobility, universities should be offered attractive loans that will enable them to plan for the future and guarantee adequate funding for both current and prospective students. And as for the decimated labour market, the government should bolster regulations that will prevent the exploitation of ‘low-skilled’ (and often young) workers, such as the National Living Wage, minimum wage, zero-hour contracts, and unpaid internships.

The lockdown period may go on for another 3, 6 or 9 weeks, but young people across the UK are operating on a different clock. The government must act now to address both the short- and long-term social, economic, and educational insecurity plaguing an entire generation. Simply put, it’s the minutes and the months that matter.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

FROM THE FIELD: India’s plastic waste revolution

Integration of migrants: Commission launches a public consultation and call for an expert group on the views of migrants

Human rights: breaches in Russia, the Rakhine State and Bahrain

How upskilling could help cities rebuild after Coronavirus

EntEx Organises 5 Summer Schools for Young Entrepreneurs across Europe in June/July 2014

The female struggle in the face of medical devaluation

‘The welfare of the Libyan people’ the UN’s sole agenda for the country, says Guterres in Tripoli

Dare to be vulnerable, and three other lessons in leadership

How businesses can create an ethical culture in the age of tech

The challenge to be a good healthcare professional

Act now to prevent Desert Locust catastrophe in Horn of Africa: UN agencies

The most unlikely innovators are changing ICT for development – it’s time we took notice

What is environmental racism?

Climate change: cutting the good by the root?

Guterres condemns killing of Bangladeshi peacekeeper in South Sudan, during armed attack on UN convoy

Venezuela’s needs ‘significant and growing’ UN humanitarian chief warns Security Council, as ‘unparalleled’ exodus continues

More than speed: 5G could become the next big economic driver

Asylum: more solidarity among EU member states and funds for frontline countries

European Commission requests that Italy presents a revised draft budgetary plan for 2019

Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

Juncker’s Investment Plan in desperate need for trust and funds from public and private investors

Europe, US and Russia haggle over Ukraine’s convulsing body; Russians and Americans press on for an all out civil war

The “Colombo Declaration” adopted at the World Conference on Youth 2014

IMF: World cup and productivity

Cameron postpones speech in Holland

‘Great cause of concern’ UN chief tells Security Council, surveying ‘bleak’ state of civilian protection

1.1 billion people still lack electricity. This could be the solution

5 leadership lessons I learned from doing my own ‘undercover boss’

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

The World Health Organization has called on countries to ‘test, test, test’ for coronavirus – this is why

EU budget: Commission helps prepare new Cohesion programmes with Regional Competitiveness Index and Eurobarometer

Catalonia secessionist leader takes Flemish ‘cover’; Spain risks more jingoist violence

Marriage equality boosted employment of both partners in US gay and lesbian couples

Europe had a record year for Measles – and it’s partly down to anti-vaccine campaigners

From Policy to Reality: Discrepancies in Universal Health Care Systems across the EU

AI looks set to disrupt the established world order. Here’s how

Early healthcare investment is our best chance at healthy ageing

The EU sides with China against the US; but has Germany capitulated to America?

Preserving biodiversity vital to reverse tide of climate change, UN stresses on International Day

Educate children in their mother tongue, urges UN rights expert

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

GDPR and the World Cup have these 4 things in common

Your chocolate can help save the planet. Here’s how

ECB embarks on the risky trip to Eurozone banking universe

New rules to help consumers join forces to seek compensation

Thinking like Leonardo da Vinci will help children tackle climate change

Parliament approves EU rules requiring life-saving technologies in vehicles

World Bank downgrades global growth forecasts, poorest countries hardest hit

What we need is more (and better) multilateralism, not less

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

How to fix our planet: the pioneers fighting to bring nature back

How China Mended My Heart

Children are forgetting the names for plants and animals

Labels for tyres: deal for greener and safer road transport

Commission presents its response to Antisemitism and a survey showing Antisemitism is on the rise in the EU

The Ecofin deceives the SMEs with the EIB €10bn capital increase

Consumers suffer three defeats

Sexual exploitation and abuse: latest UN quarterly update

The economic effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world

New VAT rules in the EU: how a digital sea could have become an ocean

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s