• Melo Acuna

More young people to stay jobless

Special Report

Difficulty in finding jobs for the region’s youth seen with COVID-19

MANILA – Employment prospects for the Asia Pacific region’s 600 million would be grim. A collaborative study made by the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank revealed young people would be hit harder than adults and would endure higher longer-term economic and social costs.

The same report called on various governments to involve young people in policy and social dialogue and adopt urgent, large-scale, and targeted interventions.

In a study entitled “Tackling the COVID-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific,” it has been found prior to the pandemic, young people were already facing headwinds in the labour market and further worsened by the COVID-19 crisis as its multiple effects threaten to create a “lockdown generation: that will take the brunt of the crisis in a longer time.

The pandemic triggered a massive disruption of labour markets which resulted in disproportionate impacts on youth unemployment because lockdowns and travel restrictions, the demand slumped and a significant number of businesses have been forced to closed or reduce their operations seriously affecting workers. The study said about 220 million young workers (15-24 years) in the region have been found vulnerable due to short tenure on the join and their employment in hard-hit sectors and their tendency to earn livelihoods in unsecure and informal jobs.

With their lack of experience, young people will have higher rates of unemployment than adults (25 and older) regardless of their business cycle. The young workers are found in less-secure, lower-wage employment with limited legal rights, social protection and representation.

COVID-19 revealed the vulnerabilities of young workers complicated by the disruption of education and training programs.

“The scale of the impact will depend on the length of the crisis, the choices of governments in the socioeconomic recovery, and the capacity of institutions to implement effective programs.

The affected youth are hit in three different ways, for job disruptions from reduced working hours and layoffs, disruption in education and training as they strive to finish their studies and the difficulty in transitioning from school to work and moving between jobs.

The region’s young people had different constraints to have decent work because the regional youth unemployment rate was 13.8 percent in 2019 compared with 3.0 per cent for adults and the global youth unemployment rate of 13.6 per cent. It was also found that more than 160 million youth or 24 per cent of the population were not in employment, education or training last year. The rates icr4eased as a result of the exclusion of young women who are saddled with unpaid household and care work.

Eighty per cent of the region’s young workers were into informal employment, with a higher share than adults, and 25 per cent of young workers, live in either extreme or moderate poverty.

In the same study, it was found about half of young workers were employed in the hardest hit sectors, wholesale and retail trade and repair, manufacturing, rental and business services and accommodation and food services with more than. 100 million when COVID-19 pandemic began.

Youth unemployment rate increased in six of nine economies where data is available. These economies were Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Viet Nam and in Hong Kong, China with the largest increase of 3 percentage points.

It has been projected between 10 and 15 million youth jobs, equivalent to full-time work, may be lost across 13 countries in Asia and the Pacific this year.

“The projected rise in youth unemployment rates varies considerably across the 13 countries, but increases are expected for all countries. In Cambodia, Fiji, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, youth unemployment rates are expected to reach at least double the 2019 estimates even in a scenario9 of short COVID-19 containment,” the study revealed.

About half of young workers in the region are employed in four sectors hit hardest by the crisis. According to the study, this is one of the reasons that young people face greater work disruption and job loss than adults due to the pandemic. This is further aggravated by the suspension of education and training which will definitely impact on the transition to and within labour markets and may further result in “scarring effects” as manifested by the past crises.

Regionwide youth unemployment rates have increased recently. According to the study, projections until the end of the year unemployment would increase significantly in 13 countries, “with youth unemployment rates doubling the 2019 rate in some cases.”

According to the study, the Philippines ranks 5th in estimated job losses in short containment (687,000) and 4thin long containment (1.019 million) for 2020 from a group of 13 countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Philippines had 6.8% youth unemployment rate for 2019. For 2020, the study estimates the Philippines’ youth unemployment rate under short containment at 15.1% and 19.5% for long containment.

Among the reasons for their loss of employment is the last-in-first-out process where young workers hired more recently and with less job protection are likely to lose their work at a much faster rate than adults.

The ILO and ADB recommended to various governments in order to address youth unemployment in the region, they underscored the need to adopt large-scale and targeted responses on comprehensive labour market policies which include wage subsidies and public employment programs. The study further recommended governments should minimize the impacts on young students of disrupting their education and training.

There ought to be effective COVID-19 mitigation measures to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable youth are reached, and that young people are meaningfully engaged in policy and social dialogue.

Should governments prioritize youth employment and youth productivity in the recovery process, this will improve Asia and the Pacific’s prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth, demographic transition and social stability.

“When young people feel empowered to earn a living through fulfilling work, and their energy, creativity and talents are nurtured, they can take up their roles as active, engaged citizens. This contributes to a positive cycle of economic growth, investment and social justice,” the study concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)


Young workers in both formal and informal sectors under COVID19. (Melo Acuna Photos)

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