How have young people coped and are they still coping with the Covid 19 crisis? How have they been involved in the management – European and local – of the crisis? Which innovations have been produced or accelerated? How are the young people pro-active to build the continuation?
Nika Bakhsoliani – Office of the Advisory Council on Youth (Georgia)
The pandemic has aggravated the already very difficult situation for young people (faced with job insecurity, etc.). Many of them have had to stop their activity, especially in rural areas.
One of the major problems affecting Georgian society is the digital divide, which is even greater at a time when everything has to happen online. Inequalities in access to the Internet are even more pronounced with COVID, which has accelerated the use of applications to communicate and share documents. Digitization can be complicated to implement, particularly in countries where many households do not have stable access to the Internet. In Georgia, youth associations do not have access to platforms such as Kahoot or Zoom. While digital rights should be accessible to all, the disparities are great.
Hélène Godwin – Bristol Elected Councillor and Cabinet Member for Women, Families and Homes and Senior Member for Children’s Services
Her youth association started from a very simple observation during the pandemic: Adults, teachers, schools are addressed, but few people talk to children about what is happening. The association has therefore set up an online hub accessible to all, including an educational and entertaining part (storytelling, music, recipes, contests).
Bristol is also renowned for its long-standing Youth Council, which inspires people from all over the world. Participants in this Council are elected representatives sitting in the UK Youth Parliament.
She also stressed the importance of youth input and participation in community life. The association conducted a survey of Bristol’s youth, which was taken into account in the city’s recovery plan.
Lee Patterson – City of Cardiff Youth Officer Dayle Luce – Youth Mentor at Cardiff Youth Service
Discussion events and working groups were organized for young people at the height of the pandemic, so that they could express their feelings, especially their anxieties. Educators were able to exchange directly with them.
The Cardiff Youth Support Service association, for its part, gives priority support to the most disadvantaged young people, providing them with chrome books and tablets, for example. They have adapted to the health crisis by continuing their support with, among other things, telephone calls and discussions on Zoom.
Sonja Oesterreicher – Representative of the City of Vienna, expert of the Viennese Fund for Employment Promotion
From the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis the unemployment rate increased, for the 20 to 24 years old category the unemployment rate had doubled by May and the number of people looking for apprenticeships or work-study programs had also doubled. The search for jobs and apprenticeships for young people was already a problem before the pandemic, in an attempt to address this problem, the city of Vienna has launched several actions:
- 17 million investment to support unemployed young people. This investment includes
- 10 million for vocational training
- 7 million for the qualification of unemployed young people (help in finding an apprenticeship, qualifications and qualifications)
- Information campaigns on training opportunities for young people to improve their integration possibilities
- Rapid reopening of job search centers allowing personalized appointments with counselors and to give access to computer equipment to those who do not have it at home and are therefore hindered in their job search.
Andrea Casamenti – Member of the Board of the European Youth Forum
The European Youth Forum has a wide scope of action and brings together all youth organisations in Europe. It covers a radius of more than 40 million young people and aims to represent their interests and ensure the protection of their rights. The Forum has organised a large-scale study on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of young people and how they have felt it. They managed to obtain more than 12,000 responses from 18-24 year olds in 112 countries.
The results of this study are that :
- The impact of the pandemic is systematic, profound and not proportionate
- 1 young person out of 6 has stopped working since the beginning of the crisis and 40% of participants have seen a drop in income.
- Support from governments does not reach those who need it most – the recipients of support were those who were still employed (even if reduced) or had higher levels of education. Most supports were conditional on a decrease or disappearance of income and thus employment status.
- The support is subject to the same types of problems being also linked to employment, it does not reach the most
- Generally the unemployment rate of young people is double that of the country.
Following the speakers’ presentations, Anita Silva, asked some of the questions from the chat.
How has the crisis accentuated inequalities among young people, especially those already at risk? It emerged from the discussion that going digital in response to the health crisis is not the solution to everything. Indeed, working with young people cannot be completely cut off from face-to-face encounters. Moreover, the digital divide affects young people in difficulty and less developed countries much more. While young people are very creative, they are also limited by their access to computer equipment and the Internet. However, digital tools have made it possible to reach certain audiences that were previously under-represented. Having a meeting through videoconference made participation less intimidating and encouraged young people to participate in the discussions.
On innovation and youth participation, how do we encourage and promote youth participation in the era of COVID? Speakers emphasized that although when we talk about participation we often think of voting, participation does not stop there, on the contrary. New forms of participation are becoming widespread (online petitions, demonstrations, …) and we have seen during periods of confinement how badly young people have experienced the reduction of their right to demonstrate. One of the very important elements related to youth participation is also the economic crisis situation and the need for financial aid to be able to invest more.