Global policy responses needed to save youngsters - GulfToday

Global policy responses needed to save youngsters


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting multiple shocks on the young and threatens entire generation, according to United Nations officials, and it is a matter of deep concern.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 70 per cent of students have been shut out of schools, universities and training centres, according to a new report issued by the UN’s labour agency.

The sudden transition visibly poses a big challenge for the youngsters.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Youth and COVID-19: impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being report, has revealed that 65 per cent of young people have reported learning less since the pandemic began, citing the transition from classroom to online and distance learning, during lockdown. The pandemic is inflicting multiple shocks on young people, says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “It is not only destroying their jobs and employment prospects, but also disrupting their education and training and having a serious impact on their mental well-being.”

Despite their efforts to continue studying and training, half of the students surveyed believed their studies would be delayed while nine per cent feared that they might fail altogether.

And for those in lower-income countries with limited internet access, a dearth of equipment, and sometimes a lack of space at home to work effectively, the situation is even worse.

The report also shines a light on the large digital divides between regions.

While 65 per cent of youth in high-income countries were taught classes via video-lectures, only 18 per cent in low-income countries were able to maintain their studies online.

Against the backdrop of further obstacles in the labour market and a lengthened transition from school to work due to the pandemic, the report clearly points out that 38 per cent of young people feel deeply uncertain over future career prospects.

Moreover, with one-in-six having had to stop work since the onset of the pandemic, some have already been directly impacted, suffering lost income.

Separately, young people in the Arab world have unanimously agreed on the three priorities that are critical to their development and to shaping the future of their countries, according to the Arab Youth Priorities study, published by the Arab Youth Centre, AYC, on the eve of the recent International Youth Day.

Those priorities were the first choices for more than 60 per cent of the nearly 7,000 young people in the age group of 15 to 34 years surveyed across 21 Arab countries.

The full list of Arab youth priorities from the 11 major sectors in focus was announced during the AYC-organised Arab Youth Priorities Conference, chaired by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

The conference was held under the patronage of the League of Arab States (Arab League), and with the participation of the United Nations and several Arab youth ministers and youth sector officials from different parts of the Arab world.

Young people in the Arab world chose stability, education, and health as the top three priorities, as per the study, which surveyed the most important issues of concern to Arab youth.

As UN officials point out, to protect an entire generation from having their employment prospects scarred by the crisis, there is a need for urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses, including by re-integrating back into the labour market those who have lost jobs, ensuring youth access to unemployment insurance benefits, and instituting effective measures to boost mental health.

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