The young will suffer most long- term from the pandemic

“Young people are fuelling the coronavirus.” So suggested the World Health Organisation last month, after youngsters defying distancing rules were blamed for rising infection rates across Europe. In Preston, UK, councillors even urged local youth not to “kill granny”.

But the young are not to blame for this pandemic. They are its “forgotten victims”. UK national debt has reached a “staggering” £2trn – a burden which will take decades to pay off, and which will fall hardest on a generation that has already given up so much. To protect the nation from a disease that rarely endangers them, the young have sacrificed their education, along with all the fun of being young. Already, the number of under-24s claiming benefits has doubled; now hundreds of thousands more young people are entering the labour market at the start of what may be the worst recession in 300 years.

There’s no sugar coating it, the outlook is bleak. There are 60% fewer graduate jobs on offer than at this time last year; and that will put more pressure on non-graduate jobs – at a time when they are also being cut in droves, as restaurants, bars and shops close down. U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £2bn Kickstart scheme – creating apprenticeships for under-25s – may help some; but as the furlough scheme draws to a close, it can’t stop the approaching “jobless tsunami”.

Even those who have found work are struggling. Senior staff may like working from home; but for young people starting out, it can be lonely and frustrating: how do you shine, if you only see your bosses in awkward Zoom meetings? In previous recessions, the young could flee abroad in search of adventure or opportunity. Now, that avenue is closed, leaving them festering at home, their independent lives curtailed, their dreams abandoned.

The Tories have a history of rewarding the old, who vote for them; but today’s young have loud voices. If they feel the burden of this recession is falling on them disproportionately, it will have “ugly” political consequences. (Sunday Times, The Week and others 5 September 2020)

My take: When I was 19 I was an army officer responsible for 45 people in Cyprus. Later I hitch-hiked round America and down to Central America, all with the knowledge that there would surely be a job for me later, and when else could I have time for adventure? Now young people can’t travel or find a job. This is really sad, and will not end happily.

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