KAMPALA – In an environment where companies and entities are laying off workers, slashing existing salaries even beyond 60%, what will become of the 2020 fresh graduates or the ones hoping to join the job seeking market next year? Will companies need new workers soon when they can’t even pay the existing ones? How about the ones that graduated before Covid and have been unemployed since graduation? These and more are the questions the world’s majority population is asking itself.
Just as the young people were disproportionately affected by the financial crisis in 2008, new research from the University of Cambridge suggests the young people are also likely to be disproportionately affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19.
The research is based upon data from both the United States, United Kingdom and African countries like Nigeria and South Africa, and reveals that younger workers were considerably more likely to have either lost their jobs or seen a marked fall in income or hours than their older peers. The worst is that younger workers were also far more pessimistic about their employment prospects, and many believe will be be out of work by August than workers aged 40-55.
The latest International Labour Organization (ILO) report has predicted that an equivalent of 22 million full-time jobs will be lost in Africa in by the end of 2020. In addition, 26.4% of workers in Africa are working in risk sectors, and only 17.8% of the population is covered with some form of social protection. The youth account for 65% of Africa’s unemployment crisis and this is set to rise due to the outbreak of Corona virus across the globe. g to the ILO) and also account for a vast majority of vulnerable agricultural and informal workers, young people will be the first to feel the effects of this recession and likely the last to recover.
What if the lockdown pushes on longer, what if the damages to the economy do not leave room for many employment opportunities, what is next for the young people? Are they going to stay home? Then how do we respond to such: How best do we protect existing jobs and nurture an economic recovery that quickly produces new ones? And how can we ensure that these jobs are accessible to the youth population, and that the recovery extends to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which make up 40% of GDP and up to 80% of employment in emerging markets?
Many young people who were operating small business before the lock down are worried that they might not get back to business since many have lost their capital, others are worried about bank loans, rent fares and payment of taxes.
It’s well known that recessions can have a lasting impact on the lifetime earnings of those entering the workforce during them, and with the economic fallout from COVID-19 likely to be longer and deeper than any recession for several generations, the impact could be profound on the careers of young people.
In response to the ongoing Covid 19 crisis, a few things can be done to help mitigate the damage and restore public confidence. Firstly, social dialogue, engaging with workers and employers and their representatives, is vital for building public trust and support for the measures that we need to overcome this crisis. Secondly, international labour standards provide a tried-and-trusted foundation for policy responses that focus on a recovery that is sustainable and equitable. Everything needs to be done to minimize the damage that the young people are likely to face during this difficult time.
The writer is Lawyer and Youth Affairs Activist with Youth Line Forum