UK risks creating lost ‘Covid generation’ without extra support for young people, report warns

Ben Chapman
·2 min read
Students have been told to self-isolate in halls after coronavirus clusters (AFP via Getty Images)
Students have been told to self-isolate in halls after coronavirus clusters (AFP via Getty Images)

The UK risks creating a lost "Covid generation" unless additional support for training, housing and mental health is provided for young people, a report has warned.

Adults aged 18 to 29 have endured an 80 per cent rise in mental health problems - more than any other age group - the Resolution Foundation found.

Its analysis of the pandemic's impact on different generations found young people and pensioners aged 65 to 79 have experienced the biggest deterioration in their employment situation.

Over half of those aged 18-24 and 65+ who were employed before the pandemic have since stopped working – either by being furloughed or by losing their jobs altogether – compared to fewer than a third of those aged 30-50.

The Foundation warns that young and pension-age workers are most at risk during the next phase of the crisis, as furloughing ends and unemployment continues to rise.

If the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projection for unemployment to reach 11.9 per cent materialises, youth unemployment could rise to around 17 per cent – the same level as the early 1980s peak, according to the report.

But while the jobs crisis has affected young and old alike, the report shows that the impact of the crisis on people’s living conditions has fallen most heavily on young people. Around one-in-seven people under the age of 30 have missed a rent or mortgage payment since the pandemic began, compared to just one-in-thirty 60-69s.

"The growth of the high-cost, low-security private rental sector has led to missed housing payments and cramped living spaces during lockdown," said David Willetts, president of the Resolution Foundation.

“It has also reinforced the underlying trends for younger people to have less wealth than young people did a generation ago, while increases in the value of houses and pensions particularly benefit older generations.”

With infections rising again “the risk of losing a covid generation to long-term youth unemployment is real”, Willetts said.

"But there is plenty that policy makers can do to prevent it – from extra training provision to a greater focus on creating new jobs to support people out of this crisis.”

Alex Beer, welfare programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said: “As the crisis continues, this research suggests that it is crucial for the government to not only support incomes, but to also take a broader approach to building resilience and improving living standards.

Access to housing, skills training and mental health support will also be crucial for those most at risk of the adverse effects of the pandemic.”

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