THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its latest analysis of the labour market impact of COVID-19 has revealed that more than one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic while those who remain employed have seen their working hours cut by 23 per cent, says the International Labour Organization (ILO).

In a press release on Wednesday, the ILO quoting the 4th edition of its publication, ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the World of Work, stated that the youth are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and the substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting young women more than young men.

According to the organisation, the pandemic is not only inflicting a triple shock on young people, it is also destroying their employment as well as disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or to move between jobs.

It said at 13.6%, the youth unemployment rate in 2019 was already higher than for any other group with around 267 million young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) worldwide. Those 15-24 year olds who were employed were also more likely to be in forms of work that leave them vulnerable, such as low paid occupations, informal sector work, or as migrant workers, the ILO said.

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The Monitor quoted Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, to have stated: “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, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy is side-lined by a lack of opportunity or skills it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy.”

Ryder said 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. He added that “testing and tracing can be an important part of the policy package if we are to fight fear, reduce risk and get our economies and societies moving again quickly.”

According to the Monitor, there is the need “for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support youth, including broad-based employment/training guarantee programmes in developed countries, and employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low- and middle-income economies.

The Monitor also looked at measures to create a safe environment for returning to work by stating that rigorous testing and tracing (TT) of covid-19 infections, “is strongly related to lower labour market disruption…[and] substantially smaller social disruptions than confinement and lockdown measures.” It also noted that in countries with strong testing and tracing, the average fall in working hours is reduced by as much as 50%.

“There are three reasons for this: TT 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.

“In addition, testing and tracing can itself create new jobs, even if temporary, which can be targeted towards youth and other priority groups,” said the Monitor. It reiterates its call for immediate and urgent measures to support workers and enterprises along the ILO’s four-pillar strategy: stimulating the economy and employment; supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes; protecting workers in the workplace; relying on social dialogue for solutions.

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