Report warns of youth worst-hit by pandemic

A report jointly produced by the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organisation says young people in the Asia and Pacific region will be the hardest hit by the long-term impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The joint report titled “Tackling the COVID-19 Youth Employment Crisis in Asia and the Pacific” states that the pandemic has triggered a massive disruption of labor markets, which has had a disproportionate impact on youth unemployment.

It assesses the damaging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth employment in Asia and the Pacific and recommends critical policy responses, and is a collaborative effort between the I.L.O. and the A.D.B., which finds that the employment prospects of the region’s 660 million young people are severely challenged.

The report urges governments in the region to engage with young people in policy and social dialogue and to adopt urgent, large-scale and targeted interventions. According to the report, job loss among the youth will continue throughout 2020 and could result in youth unemployment rates doubling. 

Fiji is the only Pacific island to feature in the report, which states that Fiji’s youth unemployment rate may rise from 14.8 per cent to almost 30 per cent, increasing up to 36.8 per cent as the COVID-19 crisis gets drawn out, according to a statement released by the A.D.B.

The A.D.B Pacific Subregional Office Regional Director Masayuki Tachiiri stated during the Pacific launch that young women, in particular, have been severely impacted by the spike in youth unemployment in the region, largely because they are overrepresented in the sectors most hit by the economic effects of COVID-19.

The report states that about 100 million were unemployed in four hardest hit sectors: wholesale and retail trade and repair, manufacturing, rental and business services, and accommodation and food services.

The I.L.O Office for Pacific Island Countries Director, Matin Karimli, stated that the pandemic is inflicting a triple shock on young people: destroying their employment, disrupting education and training, and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market. 

"There is an urgent need to help young people develop resilience to face these challenges, as well as develop the capacity of institutions to implement effective measures,” Mr Karimli said.

The joint report report recommends targeted responses to address the youth unemployment crisis, such as comprehensive labour market policies including wage subsidies and public employment programs; job information and employment services expansion for young jobseekers; apprenticeship programs and demand-driven skills development; increased funds for upskilling and reskilling; and digital inclusion investment for equitable access to education, training, and entrepreneurship.

These interventions should reach the most vulnerable youth including the poorest and marginalized young women and meaningfully engage young people in policy development and social dialogue.

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