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Young workers affected by COVID-19

Youth – disproportionately affected by COVID-19

MANILA – The Geneva-based International Labor Organization said COVID-19 exposed the devastating and disproportionate effect on young workers as it seriously considered ways to introduce a safe return to work environment.

In a statement released late Wednesday night, ILO said more than one in six young people stopped working since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic while those who remained at work have seen their working hours reduced by 23 percent.

Citing the findings of their ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work, 4th edition, the youth are disproportionately affected by the pandemic,

They found substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February has affected young women more than young men. Not only has COVID-19 destroyed their employment, it also disrupted education and training and has placed obstacles of young people hoping to join the labor market much less move to other jobs.

The study revealed at 13.6 percent, the youth unemployment rate in 2019 was higher than for any other group. There were 267 million young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) worldwide while those 15-24 year-olds who were employed were also most likely to be in forms of work that leave them vulnerable, including low paid occupations, informal sector work, or as migrant workers.

“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people, especially women, harder and faster than any other group. If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, they legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy is sidelined by a lack of opportunity or skills it will damage all our futures and make it more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy,” said Guy Ryder, ILO Dir4ector General.

The publication calls for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to assist the youth, including broad-based employment/training guarantee programs in developed countries, and employment-intensive programs and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.

The same publication disclosed they studied steps to create a safe environment for returning to work. It found rigorous testing and tracing (TT) of COVID-19 infections, “is strongly related to lower labor market disruption and substantially smaller social disruptions than confinement and lockdown measures.

Meanwhile in countries with strong testing and tracing, the average fall in working hours is reduced by as much as 50 percent due to testing and tracing reduces reliance on strict confinement measures, promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment and helps minimize operational disruption at the workplace.

Testing and Trading can create new jobs, though temporary at times, which can be targeted towards youth and other priority groups.

“Creating an employment-rich recovery that also promotes equity and sustainability means getting people and enterprises working again as soon as possible, in safe conditions,” Ryder was quoted saying. He added testing and tracing can be an important part of the policy package if one’s to fight fear, reduce risk and get economies and societies moving again quickly.

ILO also said estimates the decline in working hours in the first and second quarters of the year, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. As estimated 4.8 per cent of working hours were lost during Q1 of 2020 (equivalent to 135 million full-time jobs, assuming a 48-hour working week). This represents a slight upward revision of around seven million jobs since the third edition of the Monitor. The estimated number of jobs lost in Q2 remain unchanged at 305 million.

The ILO said from a regional perspective, the Americas (13.1 per cent), and Europe and Central Asia (12.9 per cent) present the largest losses in hours worked in Q2. They called for immediate and urgent measures to support workers and enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace and relying on social dialoguye for solutions.

ILO Director General Guy Ryder. (Screen Grab from AlJazeera)

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