COVID-19 pandemic seriously impacts youth employment: ILO-ADB report hinh anh 1Young people seek job information at the Hanoi Centre for Employment Services (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Hanoi (VNA) – Young people’s employment prospects in Asia and the Pacific are severely challenged as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a report recently released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The report, “Tackling the COVID-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific”, says that youth (15–24 years) will be hit harder than adults (25 and older) in the immediate crisis and also risk bearing higher longer-term economic and social costs.

More youth suffer from unemployment than adults

The ILO-ADB report calls on governments in the region to adopt urgent, large-scale and targeted measures to generate jobs for youth, keep education and training on track, and to minimise future scarring for more than 660 million young people in the region.

It noted that even before the COVID-19 crisis, youth in Asia and the Pacific faced challenges in the labour market, resulting in high unemployment rates and large shares of youth excluded from both school and work.

In 2019, the regional youth unemployment rate was 13.8 percent compared to 3 percent for adults, and more than 160 million youth (or 24 percent of the population) were not in employment, education or training. Four in five young workers in the region were engaged in informal employment – a higher share than among adults – and one in four young workers was living in conditions of extreme or moderate poverty.

“The pre-crisis challenges for youth are now amplified since COVID-19 hit. Without sufficient attention, our fear is that this risks creating a ‘lockdown generation’ that could feel the weight of this crisis for many years to come,” says Sara Elder, a lead author of the report and Head of the ILO Regional Economic and Social Analysis unit.

The report cites three ways in which young people are affected in the current crisis: job disruptions in the form of reduced working hours and earnings, and job losses for both paid workers and the self-employed; disruptions in their education and training; and difficulties in transitioning from school to work, and moving between jobs in a recession.

Youth unemployment rates in the region increased sharply in the first quarter of 2020 from the last quarter of 2019. Compared to the first quarter of 2019, the youth unemployment rate increased in six of the nine economies with available data: Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as in Hong Kong (China), which showed the largest increase of 3 percentage points. In all these economies, youth rates increased more than adult rates, according to the report.

Improving future prospects for youth

The ILO-ADB report projects that between 10 and 15 million youth jobs (full-time equivalent) may be lost across 13 countries in Asia and the Pacific in 2020.

COVID-19 pandemic seriously impacts youth employment: ILO-ADB report hinh anh 2The COVID-19 pandemic has affected vocational training for young people (Photo: VNA)

In Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, youth unemployment rates are expected to reach at least double the 2019 estimates.

According to the report, one of the reasons young people in the region face greater labour market disruption and job losses than adults is that nearly half of them (more than 100 million) were employed in the four sectors hardest hit by the crisis: the wholesale and retail trade and repair; manufacturing; rental and business services; and accommodation and food services.

[Specific support packages needed for disadvantaged labour groups]

Compounded by the forced suspension of education and training, the COVID-19 crisis will affect young people’s transitions to and within labour markets, and could result in scarring effects, as seen in previous crises, says the report.

“Prioritising youth employment in the COVID-19 recovery process will improve Asia and the Pacific’s future prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth, demographic transition and social stability,’’ says Chris Morris, Head of the ADB NGO and Civil Society Centre, and leading ADB’s Youth for Asia initiative.

The report recommends urgent, large-scale and targeted responses, including youth-targeted wage subsidies and public employment programmes, and measures to mitigate the impact on students of the disruption to their education and training. Governments should consider balancing the inclusion of youth in wider labour market and economic recovery measures, with youth-targeted interventions to maximise effective allocation of resources./.
VNA