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Young bear brunt of virus disruptions
2020-08-13 
With no internet for remote learning, deprived children make do with recorded lessons via loudspeakers in Dandwal village in India's western state of Maharashtra on July 23. Fears have been expressed that children in poorer countries are falling further behind. PRASHANT WAYDANDE/REUTERS

The disproportionate effect of the pandemic on young people has exacerbated inequalities and risks, reducing the productive potential of an entire generation, especially in lower-income countries.

The economic and social crisis brought about by COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on the education and training of young people, and over 70 percent of them who study or combine study with work have been adversely affected by the closing of education institutions since the outset of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis by the International Labour Organization.

The report, Youth and COVID-19: Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being, is based on a survey, with over 12,000 responses received from 112 countries.

It finds that the impact of the pandemic on the young will be "systematic, deep and disproportionate", and this generation are more concerned about the future and their place within it.

The closure of schools, universities and training centers has affected over 73 percent of the respondents surveyed who were in education or training, and nearly one in eight saw their education and training come to a complete stop, with no courses, teaching or tests set since the pandemic began.

About 65 percent of young people reported having learned less since the beginning of the pandemic because of the transition from classroom to online and distance learning during lockdowns, the report said.

However, despite their efforts to continue studying and training, half of the respondents believed their studies would be delayed and nine percent thought that they might fail.

These results, the report said, highlighted the challenges involved in moving learning into the home. Even when institutions managed to transition to distance delivery, teachers, trainers and students may not have been adequately equipped to ensure continuity in learning.

Unclear career prospects

The situation has been even worse for those living in lower-income countries, who have less access to the internet, lack of equipment and sometimes lack of space at home. Only 18 percent in low-income countries could keep studying online, while the percentage is as high as 65 in high-income countries.

The pandemic is also inflicting a heavy toll on young workers, destroying their employment while undermining their career prospects.

One in six young people who were employed before the outbreak, stopped working altogether, most notably younger workers aged 18-24, and those in clerical support, services, sales, and crafts and related trades, according to the report.

Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO, said the pandemic is "inflicting multiple shocks on young people "and "we cannot let this happen".

The report said that the voices of young people should be heard as it is critical to delivering a more inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Giving young people a say in decision-making to articulate their needs and ideas can "improve the effectiveness of policies and programs and gives youth the chance to participate in their delivery", said the report.

Ivy Tecla Nabwire, a 26-year-old participant from Kenya, suggested providing income, training and employment support for young people in the community.

"I call on our authorities to implement tracing and tracking measures and provide free masks and sanitizers to allow people to go back to work safely," she said.

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