Youth Policies & COVID-19

author: Viktoriia Onykiienko  29-10-2020

COVID pandemic influences every aspect of our lives. It resulted in young people facing problems with employment, mobility, and exercise of some other human rights. In this article, I will discuss the European Union’s (the EU’s) response to the issues caused by the crisis and the Ukrainian plan of action.

Youth Employment in the EU

Even before the pandemic, the employment of young people was a challenging issue. The COVID-19 crisis caused even more obstacles for youth in finding jobs. The topic is complicated because it includes a range of factors such as longer school-to-work transitions, lack of experience, continued education, etc.

According to Eurostat, in August 2020, 3.032 million young people (under 25) were unemployed in the EU, of whom 2.460 million were in the euro area. In August 2020, the youth unemployment rate was 17.6% in the EU and 18.1% in the euro area, up from 17.4% and 17.8%, respectively, in the previous month. Compared with July 2020, youth unemployment increased by 64 000 in the EU and 69 000 in the euro area. According to the International Labour Office survey, one in six young people aged 18–29 (17.4%) stopped working since the onset of the crisis.

In the framework of the recovery strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic, on 1 July 2020, the European Commission launched a Youth Employment Support package including a commitment for a renewed Youth Guarantee and recommendations for the Vocational Education and Training. These measures will support young people in entering the labour market, assist them in more qualitative preparation for employment, and provide the skills required in the modern world. In particular, the emphasis is on the competencies needed in terms of green and digital transitions. At least €22 billion should be spent on youth employment support.

Youth mobility in the EU

With the beginning of the pandemic, life radically shifted from offline to online, restricting our freedom of movement. It affected not only the way we work and study but our travelling opportunities. For many young people, the latter was an integral part of their life: exploring new countries, exchanging ideas, building networks. Of course, while staying at home, they were still able to hold numbers of activities online, keep in touch with their friends and parents abroad, and share their difficulties. However, it differed a lot from what they were used to.

The COVID-19 outbreak had a negative impact on the delivery of many ongoing or planned under the Erasmus+ programme and European Solidarity Corps activities. Still, one of the most prominent mobility programs, Erasmus+, showed flexibility. For instance, on 25 August 2020, two extraordinary Erasmus+ calls for proposals were launched to support digital education and creative skills development. The calls each provide €100 million as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

What takes place in Ukraine?

Ukraine's response to the crisis in the youth sector is not that proactive. There are many reasons for such a situation: lack of funding, expertise, and insufficient institutional capacity. But still, considerable progress takes place in terms of legislation development. Ukraine is currently working on developing up-to-date legislation regulating the youth sector. The draft of the new Law "On Youth" was supported by the MPs in the first reading in July 2020. Moreover, on 12-13 September 2020, the Association of Youth Councils of Ukraine was established. It aims to unite and advocate youth councils' interests from the regions and big cities from all over Ukraine.

Conclusion

Whether the youth that lives and develops under such circumstances will be called "the lockdown generation" depends on the effective governmental and institutional responses to the crisis. 

Young people have a right to participate in the decision-making processes that affect them. The concept "no decision about youth without youth" is as relevant now as never before. Therefore, governments need to integrate youth participation mechanisms into the design and implementation of measures tackling the pandemic's effects.