As many as 41 lakh youth in the country lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic while construction and farm sector workers account for the majority of job losses, according to a joints report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). "For India, the report estimates job loss for 4.1 million youth. Construction and agriculture have witnessed the major job losses among seven key sectors," said the ILO-ADB report, titled 'Tackling the COVID-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific', released on Tuesday.
The young people's employment prospects in Asia and the Pacific are severely challenged due to the pandemic, it added. Youth (15-24 years) will be hit harder than adults (25 and older) in the immediate crisis and risk bearing higher longer-term economic and social costs, said the report.
The report is based on regional assessment of the 'Global Survey on Youth and COVID-19' and arrived at estimates based on available unemployment data in different countries. It said that in India, two-thirds of firm-level apprenticeships and three quarters of internships were completely interrupted during the pandemic.
The report calls on governments in the region to adopt urgent, large-scale and targeted measures to generate jobs for the youth, keep education and training on track, and to minimise future scarring of more than 660 million young people in the region. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, youth in Asia and the Pacific faced challenges in the labour market, resulting in high unemployment rates and large shares of youth excluded from both school and work.
In 2019, the regional youth unemployment rate was 13.8 per cent, compared to 3 per cent for adults; and more than 160 million youth (24 per cent of the population) were not in employment, education or training. Four in five young workers in the region were engaged in informal employment "a higher share than among adults" and one in four young workers was living in conditions of extreme or moderate poverty.
"The pre-crisis challenges for youth are now amplified since COVID-19 hit. Without sufficient attention, our fear is that this risks creating a 'lockdown generation' that could feel the weight of this crisis for many years to come," said Sara Elder, lead author of the report and head of the ILO Regional Economic and Social Analysis unit. The report cites three ways in which young people are affected in the current crisis. These are job disruptions in the form of reduced working hours and earnings, and job losses for both paid workers and the self-employed; disruptions in their education and training; and difficulties in transitioning from school to work, and moving between jobs in a recession.
Youth unemployment rates in the region increased sharply in the first quarter of 2020 from the last quarter of 2019, it said. Compared to the first quarter of 2019, the youth unemployment rate increased in six of the nine economies with available data - Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as in Hong Kong, China, which showed the largest increase of 3 percentage points. In all these economies, youth rates increased more than adult rates, the report showed.
Between 1 crore and 1.5 crore youth jobs (full-time equivalent) may be lost across 13 countries in Asia and the Pacific in 2020, according to the report's projections. According to the report, a reasons young people in the region face greater labour market disruption and job losses than adults is that nearly half of them (more than 10 crore) were employed in the four sectors hardest hit by the crisis. The sectors are wholesale and retail trade and repair; manufacturing; rental and business services; and accommodation and food services.
Young women are over-represented in three of the four most-affected sectors, particularly in accommodation and food services, it said. Compounded by the forced suspension of education and training, the COVID-19 crisis will affect young people's transitions to and within labour markets, and could result in scarring effects, as seen in previous crises, according to the report.
It recommends urgent, large-scale and targeted responses, including youth-targeted wage subsidies and public employment programmes, and measures to mitigate the impact on students of the disruption to their education and training. Governments should consider balancing the inclusion of the youth in wider labour market and economic recovery measures, with youth-targeted interventions to maximise effective allocation of resources.
"Prioritizing youth employment in the COVID-19 recovery process will improve Asia and the Pacific's future prospects for inclusive and sustainable growth, demographic transition and social stability," said Chris Morris, head of the ADB NGO and civil society center and leading ADB's Youth for Asia initiative.