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NE youth must not be left behind following Covid-19

 

Journal column by Niamh Corcoran, NEE Chamber - policy adviser

As lockdown is relaxed, attention is turning towards the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19.

Whilst the future is unclear, one thing is certain; the fallout, whatever that may be, will not be felt equally. Previous recessions have taught us that it is young people, alongside women and the lowest paid, who will bear the brunt.

Unlike previous recessions, however, this crisis has particularly impacted sectors of the economy which employ many young people, for example hospitality and retail. According to the Resolution Foundation, these sectors often represent the first rung on the employment ladder, with one-in-five graduates and one-in-three non-graduates working in these industries within the first year of leaving education.

In the short-term, many workers in shutdown sectors have been placed on the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. However, the unwinding of this programme, and the uncertain future of these sectors, presents a worrying prospect for youth employment. Indeed, The Resolution Foundation predicts that an additional 640,000 18-24-year olds could be unemployed this year.

It is not only concerning that young people are at the epicentre of the current economic downturn, but that it could cause them long-term ‘scarring’. Resolution Foundation research into the impacts of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, found that pay levels, for example, for those who left education in 2009, remained lower than for those who left in 2013 for six years. Worryingly, the Foundation anticipate that the current downturn could prove more scarring for young people than previous recessions.

Whilst there are no easy solutions to these problems, what is clear is that policymakers must focus on young people when responding to this crisis. Ensuring young people can enter high-quality jobs, apprenticeships or training must be at the top of their agenda. Not only will this safeguard opportunities for individuals, it will lay the groundwork for the country’s economic recovery.

At the same time, the Government should also commit to its levelling-up agenda. The North East’s already high NEET (not in education, employment or training) and youth unemployment rate leaves our region more vulnerable in a recession. The Government must ensure that no region is left behind, and that all young people, regardless of where they are from, are given the opportunities to succeed.

The Chamber will continue to be a strong voice for the North East and is working hard with our members to press for the measures we, and our future generations, need to recover from this crisis.