• New survey polled young people - hit hard by COVID - around the world.
  • Young women, younger adults and lower-income countries hit hardest.
  • But more than a third of young people reported feeling optimistic about the future, either often or all the time.

The pandemic’s impact on young people has been “systematic, deep and disproportionate”, according to new research by the International Labour Organization (ILO), with young women, younger adults and youth in lower-income countries worst affected.

The Global Survey on Youth & COVID-19 interviewed 12,000 respondents from 112 countries, aged between 18 and 29. Conducted during April and May 2020, the findings are the closest we have to a snapshot of how school closures, lockdown restrictions and the economic slowdown have impacted young people’s lives, learning and livelihoods.

But despite suffering disruption and lost opportunities, there is optimism for the years ahead.

Learning put on pause

Lockdown closures of schools, universities and training organizations affected 73% of survey respondents, with almost one in eight seeing their education and training provision come to a complete halt since the start of the pandemic.

And despite efforts to continue educational provision through distance learning or by moving in-person classes online, 65% of young people reported they had learnt less during the crisis.

Share of youth (aged 18–29) who reported that their studies or training had been interrupted since the onset of the pandemic.
Share of youth (aged 18–29) who reported that their studies or training had been interrupted since the onset of the pandemic.
Image: ILO

The abrupt transition to online learning was more effective in parts of the world with greater internet access, availability of computer equipment and digital teaching skills and materials. Many students in poorer countries, with limited access to the internet and resources, experienced greater disruption to their education.

More than half of those surveyed thought the pandemic would delay their education, while 9% thought the crisis might cause their education to fail.



Optimism at work

Globally, youth unemployment was already an issue before the pandemic hit, with 15 to 24 year-olds three times more likely to be without work than the over-25s. But the COVID-19 crisis has made the situation worse.

One in six young people surveyed have stopped working since the pandemic, the survey shows, including those that have lost their jobs and those still employed but working zero hours. Almost a quarter of 18 to 24 year-olds who were working before the pandemic have stopped, compared to just 13% of the 25-to-29 age group. Sectors like clerical support, service industries and sales were hard hit by business closures and job losses, with a high proportion of the temporary, seasonal and low-paid jobs that typically attract younger workers.

More than half of workers reporting a partial reduction in working hours saw their incomes fall, while almost a quarter of respondents with no change in their working hours also received less pay.

So, what are the implications for the future?

Young people’s (aged 18–29) perceptions of future career prospects.
Young people’s (aged 18–29) perceptions of future career prospects.
Image: ILO

Two-fifths of those surveyed around the world viewed their future career prospects in an optimistic light, with more men than women reporting being confident. Slightly fewer people looked ahead with uncertainty, while 16% expressed fear for their career prospects.

Amid signs of hope and resilience, almost half of the young people surveyed reported pursuing new training or learning opportunities since the pandemic began.

Alongside the wave of interest in developing new knowledge and skills, 35% of young people reported feeling optimistic about the future some of the time, with the same percentage expressing these feelings often or all the time.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications - a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.