Briefing note

An update on the youth labour market impact of the COVID-19 crisis

This statistical brief provides an update on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on youth in terms of employment, unemployment, NEET and inactivity trends, highlighting the differences between youth and adults (aged 25 and above), along with gender disparities. The brief also underscores the need for an integrated and multi-dimensional employment policy, which is based on continuing broader support to the economy and labour market, along with specific measures targeting the most vulnerable youth.

Briefing note | 02 June 2021
The COVID-19 crisis has severely affected labour markets around the world, hurting young people more than other age groups. Globally, youth employment fell by 8.7 per cent in 2020 compared with 3.7 per cent for adults. Based on available country-level data, the fall in employment has been much more pronounced in middle-income countries. Employment losses among young people translated mostly into an increase in inactivity in 2020. Therefore, the unemployment rate provides only a partial insight into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on young people confirming the need for broader monitoring of labour market outcomes for youth, including labour underutilization and quality of employment.

The share of young people not in employment, education or training (the NEET rate) has risen in many countries and has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels in most cases. The rise in inactivity has not – in general – been offset by a return to education. Action is needed to prevent short-term exit turning into long-term exclusion for a generation of young people, who now face greater challenges in getting (back) into the labour market, with the attendant risks to achieving a substantial reduction in NEET rates (SDG target 8.6) by 2030; a goal already postponed from 2020.

Recovery in youth employment started quickly in several countries in the third quarter of 2020 as lockdown measures were eased. However, available data suggest that the situation in the last quarter of 2020 deteriorated again in a number of countries. Given the fragility and uncertainty of the recovery, broader policy support continues to be needed, including measures that target the most vulnerable youth. In order to avoid long-term scarring effects, recovery strategies need to make youth employment a key objective, taking into account intersectionality with gender and other relevant dimensions.