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UN warns COVID-19 pandemic could inflict severe damage on youth

The UN's International Labour Organisation said the career prospects of people aged 18 to 29 were taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, while students faced a 'gloomy outlook' for its effects on their education.

FILE: A woman queues outside a COVID-19 testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne on 16 July 2020. Picture: AFP

GENEVA - The United Nations (UN) warned Tuesday that the coronavirus crisis could have a severe and lasting impact on the life prospects of young adults without swift remedial action.

The UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) said the career prospects of people aged 18 to 29 were taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, while students faced a "gloomy outlook" for its effects on their education.

The ILO report entitled Youth and COVID-19: impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being said young adults had been disproportionately affected by the crisis.

The report was based on the Global Survey on Youth and COVID-19, a study of more than 12,000 young people aged 18 to 29, conducted online in 23 languages across 112 countries between 21 April and 21 May.

The respondents were largely educated young adults with internet access, representing students and working young people with a tertiary education.

"The study finds the impact of the pandemic on young people to be systematic, deep and disproportionate. It has been particularly hard on young women, younger youth and youth in lower-income countries," the report said.

"Unless urgent action is taken, young people are likely to suffer severe and long-lasting impacts from the pandemic."

JOB PROSPECTS 'PERMANENTLY SCARRED'

The survey found that 13% had been left without any access to courses, teaching or training, while more than 70% said they were adversely affected by the closure of their educational establishments.

With courses moving online, the survey revealed the "deep digital divides that exist, especially for youth in lower-income countries, as well as the gloomy outlook that young people hold as regards learning outcomes", said the report.

It called for greater access to online learning opportunities and teaching programmes tailored to a virtual audience.

"The pandemic is also inflicting a heavy toll on young workers, destroying their employment and undermining their career prospects," the ILO report said.

It found that 17% who were employed before the outbreak had stopped working altogether.

Working hours among employed youth fell by nearly a quarter and 42% reported a reduction in their income.

"Urgent, large-scale and targeted employment policy responses are needed to protect a whole generation of young people from having their employment prospects permanently scarred by the crisis," the report said.

The survey found that 17% were "probably affected" by anxiety and depression.

"The increased sense of anxiety and fear that this crisis has instilled in many young people threatens to delay recovery in education and youth employment outcomes," the report said.

It called for mental health services to be extended to young people whose school-to-work trajectory had been hit by disrupted educational careers or job losses.

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