Supporting young people through the Covid-19 economic crisis

By Paul Day, Support Officer at CABA, the wellbeing charity

Amid the turmoil of the current pandemic, young people have once again emerged as one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. While generally considered less physically at risk from the coronavirus – unlike the over 65s, for whom it poses a significant danger – they’ve been some of the hardest hit by the economic fallout.

Research by thinktank Resolution Foundation shows that 1 in 3 young people have been furloughed or lost their jobs completely because of the virus, and over 1 in 3 have had their pay reduced since the crisis started.

So severe is the situation, that we could see an additional 600,000 18-24-year-olds pushed into unemployment throughout the coming year.

The reasons for this are multifold and complex. Many young people are new to the labour market and don’t yet have the seniority or experience to protect them from layoffs. At the same time, a large number are employed in the sectors most severely affected by the lockdown – such as leisure, retail and hospitality.

And it’s not just unemployment that they face; evidence from previous recessions suggests that those graduating during a financial downturn are more likely to earn less in the first few years, with many finding themselves stuck in low-paid jobs for the long term. As the economy shrinks, competition for each position becomes fiercer as there are fewer jobs available. Indeed, the number of jobs advertised for university leavers has fallen to a quarter of the level at the start of the year, according to jobs site Adzuna.

And if that wasn’t enough, those who might have considered further education or temporary work abroad now find themselves at a disadvantage. With international travel currently limited to only essential trips and universities facing severe disruption, many people will find themselves forced into looking for jobs prematurely.

All of this will take a massive toll on our younger generation’s mental health. For some, the mass uncertainty will manifest itself as anxiety and even depression. The precariousness of the situation is unlike anything they will have experienced before and so it’s of paramount importance that we support them through a collective effort. Underpinning this will be the work of the Government, employees and charities across the UK – but there’s a great deal that young people themselves can do to build resilience in the face of adversity and set themselves up for success in their career.

Weighing up your options and preparing yourself for success

The key is to not see the current situation as a barrier to your success. Focus on what you can control and make informed decisions based on your own circumstances. There may be fewer jobs at the moment, but the economy will bounce back and you need to prepare yourself for this by building your skillset and work experience. Consider what’s available to you. If you live at home, could you take up an internship? If you need money to pay for your outgoings, have you considered temporary work?

Don’t lose sight of what you’ve already accomplished and never lose that sense of possibility. You might have to make peace with not landing your dream job now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not achievable in the future. Perspective is essential. Consider side stepping into another sector, even temporarily; some industries are showing strong growth – for example, education, health, care work and logistics. Most jobs will have transferable skills that will stand you in good stead for your chosen career, and you might even find yourself flourishing in a career you hadn’t even thought about until now.

Finally, think carefully about further education. Some university leavers struggling to find work are considering enrolling in a postgraduate degree instead. This can be a great move for some, however, continuing your studies doesn’t always improve earnings prospects, and could simply end up lumping you with extra debt.

Tackling debt

Many recent graduates and young workers start out their careers with varying levels of debt. For some, this is carried over from their university days, while for others, the pressure of socialising with friends and colleagues and the costs of living away from home, often in cities where the costs of living are higher, can take its toll on their bank balance. This can be a source of severe worry.
The good thing is, that from our experience younger people are more willing to talk about their financial troubles. Opening up about financial worries is proven to improve your wellbeing, and can help you break down many of the barriers that are stopping you from moving forward.

Knowing your income, expenditure and disposable income once your day-to-day expenses are covered, will give you confidence in your decisions and help you to create a budget.
Tackling any outstanding debts you owe during this time might seem a daunting prospect but it’s okay to ask for help. There are constructive and positive steps you can take to work your way towards becoming debt free – and what’s more, there are plenty of online guides that will walk you through every step of the process.

For those who need it, support is available through CABA’s dedicated financial services, including financial assistance, debt management and advice on benefits.

Look for the positives

Remember, you don’t have to struggle alone. CABA, the wellbeing charity, offers a number of free self-help guides on its website that can help you to deal with career and financial anxiety. It’s dedicated financial wellbeing page features a tailored toolkit of free services and self-help resources relevant to you.