COVID-19 has affected the world in an unprecedented manner and young people from diverse communities continue to face countless mental, physical and economical challenges.
To better understand these impacts and shine a light on young people’s vital role in the pandemic recovery, “Youth Specific Livelihood Impacts and Responses to COVID-19”, – Youth-Led research in Indonesia and Nepal was conducted by Restless Development in partnership with the University of Cambridge and support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The research findings seek to help the Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), government and private sectors to understand the real-time impact of the COVID-19 crisis among young people and inform recovery efforts based on community-level insight.
10 Young Rapporteurs and 100 Diary Writers from Indonesia and Nepal were recruited based on five livelihood-based clusters: Migrant Waste Pickers, Young NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) Mothers, Health Workers, LGBTIQ (Nepal)/ People with Disability (Indonesia) and Low-level Tourism Workers.
Young NEET Mothers.
Job loss and unemployment, financial burden, slow-down of businesses, disruption in health services, decrease in the hospital check-up frequency due to fear of infections, and additional responsibility of taking care of children due to school closures were the key impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic faced by the young NEET mothers in Indonesia and Nepal.
“Being engaged in the ADB project as a diary writer has supported me to acknowledge my potential and supported me to learn how to use the internet, and partake in virtual calls.” – Diary Writer
During the difficult time brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, support from friends and families and the arrival of vaccines provided me hope.
The pandemic stunned the tourism industry worldwide leading to unemployment among low-level trekkers and tourism workers who are entirely dependent on the industry.
They struggled financially. The pandemic compelled the diarists from Bali, a tourism hotspot, to switch their occupations. The situation was no different in Nepal. The diarists were forced to look for other options to sustain their livelihood.
The diary writers in Indonesia and Nepal stressed that the Government had to be proactive to support the industry and respond immediately to minimize the crisis faced by the sectors.
Some diarists reported losing jobs and the subsequent financial struggles had negatively impacted their mental health.
The trekkers seek genuine support from the government as they feel neglected. The government had not paid attention to their situation to the desired extent.
Sona Shrestha, Rapporteur, Nepal
Migrant Waste Pickers.
In Nepal, the prolonged lockdown halted the Migrant Waste Picker’s daily work and many had to rely on other occupations such as farming. Financial struggles led many to take loans in order to meet their daily expenses.
Conversely, the majority of diarists were able to fetch more junk or used goods despite the pandemic in Nepal. Out of them, a few struggled to continue their work due to lockdown.
The majority of the diarists shared, they were looked down upon by their neighbours because people assumed that the virus could spread through the garbage collected by the waste pickers.
The diarist in Nepal stressed it would be good if a large site was managed and the useful goods were utilized in Nepal itself. According to them, this will “open more employment opportunities for waste pickers and also benefit the country financially”.
Further, the diarists in Indonesia shared that the government has yet to contribute significantly in terms of providing social assistance – in the form of basic needs or money.
It is necessary to create a safe working environment for the migrant waste pickers. They should be provided with safety equipment or materials for work and the government should secure their work.
Nisrina, Rapporteur, Indonesia
Health Care Workers.
Health workers faced an increasing burden of work during the pandemic. They had to put in extra hours due to the increasing number of patients which impacted their physical and mental health.
The majority highlighted health care workers were mistreated and accused of spreading the virus in the community. However, over time the perception towards health workers is changing and the community has started to appreciate their work.
The diarists from Indonesia said that the government should take more firm action against parties involved in illicit work such as corruption. The diarists also emphasized on the need for social assistance during such difficult times.
Diarists mentioned the need for active rapid-response teams in the community as well as the active role of the Government to manage those teams. The engagement of rapid-response teams can lessen the burden of health workers and can be available for rapid-response work too when needed.
While writing the diary I could reflect on all the difficulties faced in the week and the ways I handled them. It supported me to think about the solutions to overcome the problems and hope for better days ahead.
Job loss and financial struggles made it difficult to bear family responsibilities, and fulfil basic necessities for the LGBTIQ community. Many used their savings to deal with financial problems while many borrowed money from friends. For some, it was an opportunity to learn new business skills through virtual platforms.
Many members of the community believe vaccination is the only way to overcome the pandemic. However, they are reluctant to get vaccinated as the process is tedious and gender blind.
Diarist shared, “Blue Diamond Society’s collaboration with the government of Nepal to promote and advocate LGBTIQ’s right movement is a great step to recognize gender inclusivity.”
If LGBTQ people have jobs, they can easily run their daily lives. They need support from family, society and friends. Also government and non-government services should be gender-friendly and provide specific health services for this community (especially to transgenders, who have specific needs).
Gauri Nepali, Rapporteur, Nepal
People with Disability (PWDs).
Diary writers revealed job loss, increased dependency on the parents for money, and lack of new employment opportunities. It was mentioned that one diarist who was attending college experienced some learning challenges due to the online teaching methods.
The high impact of the pandemic caused several districts and regions in East Java to impose mobility and travel restrictions. These restrictions directly hampered the mobility of PwDs. According to several diaries, due to social distancing protocol, people were reluctant to provide the required support to people with physical disabilities when they needed assistance, whether for mobility or otherwise.
For us there is a lack of job opportunities and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder for us to find jobs. Creation of job opportunities for persons with disabilities should be priorities by the government.
A huge thank you to the rapporteurs from Nepal and Indonesia, Aasha Chaudhari, Gauri Nepali, Nir Bahadur Shrestha, Sona Shrestha, Manisha Hada, Nisrina Nafisah, Luh Putu Ari Dewiyanti, Lina Agnesia, Desrina Dewi Respati, and Mahalli, who made the Youth-Led Research project, “Youth Specific Livelihood Impacts and Responses to COVID-19”, a success.
They captured the weekly diary entries from young people of each cluster, transcribed them from the native language to English and monitored the entries. Likewise, they were actively involved in designing the diary questions, developing options for diary flexibility, and cascading research training to diary writers. Despite the difficulties, the rapporteurs put up a tremendous amount of effort and contributed significantly to the report and this article.
Rekha is the Communication and Partnership Officer at Restless Development Nepal. She is currently studying MSc International Development Management at the University of Westminster, London. She is a football fanatic who loves travelling and reading in her spare time.