Our grandparents were called to fight on the front line during a world war. We are being called to stay at home. Why can’t we do it?
The coronavirus pandemic can easily be likened to a time of war, characterised by death, rationing and the struggle for survival. NHS workers are our soldiers and the rest of us stay at home to hide from the enemy. This repetition in history can also be attributed to the immense impact on young people. The social, emotional and economic effects of the coronavirus have been shattering, and will no doubt remain so for the foreseeable future.
“All of you young people who served in the war. You are all a lost generation,” writer Gertrude Stein said to Ernest Hemingway soon after World War I. And we can only assume that our generation will suffer from the pandemic as severely as the Lost Generation did during the First World War.
92-year-old Eileen Khalastchy explains that “after the Second World War, I never thought we’d see anything like it again. No more rationing, curfews and crammed hospitals. But what we are now facing is much the same, despite the modern technology of today that I admire so much in my children and grandchildren’s generation.”
Undoubtedly, we all remain somewhat helpless in the face of a global pandemic, as it continues to spiral out of control around the world. Is there anyone to blame for the impact it is having on our lives? Some feel the government does not do enough to support us. Many feel that universities contribute to our financial anxiety by continuing to charge fees despite online learning.
However, harsh as it may sound, it is always easier to blame others than to blame ourselves. Perhaps in part we ourselves are to blame. There endures a vicious cycle of young people refusing to follow government restrictions by meeting friends and throwing parties. This subsequently worsens the situation by further spreading the virus which results in lockdown. This then means that they are the ones who suffer the consequences further down the line. Our actions have thus backfired.
Many young students across the country are unable to study remotely due to a lack of resources such as stationery and technology, leaving them up to six months behind in their education. Alongside the severe mental health issues that young people are suffering from, this is a great hindrance to them as they look to enter the job market. Despite living in an age of endless possibilities, internship opportunities have become almost unattainable, graduate jobs are sparse and pay is low.
According to the government’s Youth Unemployment Statistics, the number of unemployed people aged 16-24 increased by 124,000 in 2020. The number of young people in employment fell by 244,000 from the previous quarter. Unemployment has reached its highest levels since Britain was undergoing economic disruption under Margaret Thatcher’s government. The impact that the pandemic is having on our job prospects will likely shape the rest of our lives, hence the seemingly appropriate label to which we have been accredited: ‘The Covid generation’.
“It feels like the hard work we put in during our time at university will get us nowhere,” explained Etienne Dean, finalist at Cambridge University. “The pandemic has left us with empty CVs and no proper exams to prove our worth. It’s the same for everyone, but that doesn’t make it any better.”
In their attempt to combat the dire and lingering youth unemployment, the UK government in fact seeks to boost the prospects of young people through schemes such as Kickstart. First announced in the summer of 2020, the Kickstart Scheme provides young people with a six-month paid job with a local employer, fully funded by the Government. It is open to 16-24 year olds who are claiming Universal Credit, and are at risk of long term unemployment. The scheme will offer hundreds of thousands of job opportunities over the next two years.
Needless to say, many young people have made the most of their time during lockdown by starting their own businesses. @cakeitwithlisa is a start-up baking business which has been thriving over the past year. Lisa created ‘lockdown birthdays’, sending cakes round to friends to be eaten together over Zoom, as well as virtual baking workshops. Likewise, @maskyoface is a small business selling handmade, sustainable fabric masks using fabrics from Liberty London. Lockdown has been an opportunity for young people to set up businesses such as these which they may not have otherwise done, providing them with a skillset that will no doubt help them in their career.
We are a generation of innovation. We are a generation of inclusion. We are a generation of tolerance and a generation of solidarity. We are the most well-educated generation in history. But, as we enter the job market amid one of the most challenging periods in history, we are a lost generation. And the end is not in sight.