If the coronavirus pandemic has had devastating health effects on older, more vulnerable populations around the world, it has also sparked a new, more subtle crisis among young people: many young workers, abandoned when cities closed, lost their income and, in many cases any real ability to plan their future.
For a generation that came of age during the hangover from the 2008 financial crisis, it’s a particularly hard blow. Now, just over 10 years later, they face an even more difficult prospect: an economy that is going to lock up and a severely disrupted labor market, with no real end to uncertainty in sight.
“My dad helps me by paying for my gas and running errands,” said Margiotta. The family survived thanks to a government-funded leave program that receives part of his salary.
“It’s not easy,” he said, “I can’t help but think, what if I had my own kids?”
No countries for young men
According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organizationmore than one in six people between the ages of 18 and 29 have not worked since the pandemic started. Those who have not lost their jobs have seen their working hours drop by 23 percent.
Part of the reason young people are particularly affected is that about 40 percent worked in sectors hardest hit by the crisis – such as tourism or health care – and nearly 77 percent worked informally or temporarily, with little job security.
Young people across Europe have felt the effects of the crisis – in Germany the unemployment rate will reach 3 million this summer, and in Britain there are warnings that about 1 million by the end of the year, people under 25 may be unemployed unless the government takes action. But the problem is particularly acute in Southern Europe.
In Spain, Greece, Italy and France, rigid labor markets have traditionally pushed long-term contracts out of the reach of young people and led to higher-than-average youth unemployment rates. These countries also have a major tourism industry, which means they have been particularly hard hit by travel restrictions and the cost of following new sanitation measures.
In Italy, half of the jobs destroyed by the pandemic were held by people under the age of 35.
The number of people under 24 years of age decreased by 11 percent in May compared to last year. By comparison, employment fell by 4 percent in the 35-49 age group and employment grew by 0.9 percent for the over-50s.
That generational split is stronger than in any previous recession, according to Tito Boeri, an Italian economist and academic.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Italian government has adopted several measures to limit the damage, such as temporarily blocking layoffs and introducing leave schemes, but not everyone has benefited from this.
Although the leave options have been extended to all employees, the layoff freeze only applies to permanent workers. Most young people, who are often hired in the short term, were not protected.
The crisis in Italy has been exacerbated by decades of bad policies that have forced young people into precarious work situations, said Giuseppe Provenzano, a young Democratic Party politician who is Minister of the South in Giuseppe Conte’s government.
“The rise in youth unemployment in Italy is not the result of bad luck, but the wrong choices made in recent decades,” he said.
According to Provenzano, the government should take active measures to make youth working conditions less precarious, including by encouraging companies to employ young people and women – especially in the south, where unemployment is higher – and making them more stable contracts.
EU funding aimed at boosting digitization and sustainability across the block could help boost new job opportunities for young people, and Italy should ensure that it “uses that money in the best possible way,” he added. to.
For young Italians like Margiotta, who finally felt they had some job security, the crisis has taken the little security away from them. A long-term government plan may be welcome, but they hope for a faster solution.
The problem, Margiotta said, is not only that so many young people have lost their jobs, but that it turns out to be extremely difficult to find another.
“Of course, companies are not starting to adopt now, and the future is less certain than ever,” he said. “I recently found a job on the assembly line. They hired me on a one-week contract. ‘
Since he had no more options to make ends meet, he eventually asked for unemployment benefits. “It’s depressing,” he said. “But I have no other choice.”