This year’s International Labour Day is surreal with most of our global workforce at home, with the exception of essential service providers and frontline health professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The global economy is currently in lockdown and its effects on young people’s livelihoods will reverberate long into the future.
In March, the UN published a special report on COVID-19 and young people, which said:
“With an estimated rise between 5.3 and 24.7 million in the number of those unemployed globally, the impact on youth employment is likely to be severe given that young people (15-24) are already three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.”
As an agency working closely with young people, these are more than just statistics.
We know the real-life stories of young people whose livelihoods are now hanging in balance because of COVID-19.
Christine and Bosco are some of those young people whose livelihoods have been affected.
Christine, from Alebtong, Uganda.
“Since restaurants are still operating in this lockdown, I am still lucky to be working. I used to earn $1 a day but as business is slow that has been reduced to $0.50.
“I think I will still have a job after COVID-19 because my employer respects workers rights and rarely dismisses workers which I know can be the case in other places. My worry is that if the situation gets worse the restaurant will go bankrupt and my colleagues and I will be left jobless. It is the only source of income I have for survival and my savings can only do so much.
“Some young women who are out of jobs have resorted to early marriage or even prostitution for survival. This is very worrying. I would like to see safety nets for vulnerable young people so we could access grants from the government or other organisations to start our own businesses during this time. ”
Christine has benefited from Restless Development’s Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) project in Uganda, which seeks to increase labour law awareness among private sector employers, to safeguard the rights of young women in employment. She is a waitress from Alebtong town in Uganda.
Bosco, from Agago, Uganda
Bosco and other farmers are exempt from some lockdown measures to ensure they continue to support food production for the country. But because of lockdown measures Bosco is struggling to find enough seeds to plant.
“I am preparing to plant two acres of soya-beans and three acres of sunflower. I am nearly done with clearing the gardens and soon, we shall be planting.
“We now need support to get the seeds in order to plant in time; this is our biggest challenge and unfortunately, since the lockdown began, we have not been able to work normally.
“Our group farmers meetings are also suspended due to social distancing measures and because of the high cost of the internet, we cannot meet digitally on social media platforms such as WhatsApp.”
Bosco is part of our DYNAMIC project, one of the Mastercard Foundation’s Youth Forward Initiatives, run by a consortium of partners including Restless Development. The project supports and mentors young people to set up a business or access quality employment in the agricultural and construction sectors in Ghana and Uganda.
While we respond to help stop the spread, we must look to the shadow crises that are emerging around COVID-19 including youth unemployment. As our research shows us, any response must start with listening to young people, involving them in the solutions and supporting them to lead our way out of this crisis together.
Read more about how young people are being affected by COVID-19.
Catherine is the Director of Restless Development’s Uganda Hub and lives in Kampala.