‘Lockdown generation’ loses the most to COVID-19 pandemic



MASERU – More than one in six young people has stopped working since the onset of the pandemic. A new research has established that youths are disproportionately affected by job losses triggered by the COVID-19 economic crisis.

According to a report published on Wednesday this week by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), youths are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and the substantial and rapid increase in youth unemployment seen since February is affecting young women more than young men. “The pandemic is inflicting a triple shock on young people. Not only is it destroying their employment, but it is also disrupting education and training and placing major obstacles in the way of those seeking to enter the labour market or to move between jobs,” ILO said in a press release.

“The COVID-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group,” said ILO director general, Guy Ryder. “If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades,” Ryder added. If women and young people’s talent and energy are side-lined by lack of opportunities or skills, it would ruin the future and make it much more difficult to re-build a better, post-COVID economy.

Public Eye reported in April that the latest Global Report on Food Crises, produced by the World Food Programme (WFP) and 15 other humanitarian and development partners revealed that over 40 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 in Lesotho were looking for employment but could not find any. The WFP report further revealed half of Lesotho’s population lived in poverty, rising to 61 percent or 801 000 people in rural areas.

“Some 31 percent of rural Basotho live in extreme poverty. Unemployment is estimated at 28 percent overall and 43 percent among youths aged 15 to 24,” it read. WFP warned as it released the report that the COVID-19 pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020 unless swift action is taken. “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread,” WFP’s senior economist, Arif Husain, said.

On Wednesday, the ILO called for the urgent, large-scale and targeted policy responses to support youth, including broad-based employment or training guarantee programmes in developed countries, and employment-intensive programmes and guarantees in low and middle-income economies. On April 14, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) indicated that given measures put in place to stem the virus outbreak, the domestic economy was set to suffer a major blow from the epidemic. The committee said growth was expected to fall by 3.1 percent.

“The key sectors that are likely to be affected are mining with a decline of 13.4 percent, construction with 10.2 percent decline and textiles with 14 percent decline. These developments are expected to have a significant negative impact on employment,” it said. Also in April, former prime minister Thomas Thabane announced a raft of quick and targeted economic interventions, including a M500 million relief fund, to cushion the country’s economy against the impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Thabane said the fund would, among others, subsidise salaries of 45,000 factory workers by up to M800 for three months. He said M100 million would be provided for agricultural subsidies to increase food production and improve the nutrition situation and household food security, while maintaining the right level of grain reserves. Thabane also acknowledged the nationwide lockdown that was implemented towards the end of March to prevent the spread of the virus had affected poor people’s livelihoods and said government had formulated a social protective plan.

He said for three months, the government would add new beneficiaries of vulnerable groups including children, the elderly between the ages of 60 and 70 and people with disabilities, to benefit only during the pandemic to ensure they did not fall into the poverty trap. But yesterday drivers grounded taxis as public transport operators protested over government’s alleged failure to cushion them from the economic blows inflicted by COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

The taxi industry is an attractive sector for many young, unskilled men providing employment to thousands of people, mostly drivers and their assistants. The industry connects residents from their homes to workplaces and contributes millions to the country’s informal sector. On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of WHO declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. On March 11, WHO characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

The virus is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear well. It has spread to almost all countries around the world. It has infected over 5.8 million people worldwide and killed over 357 000 people while over 2.5 million have recovered. COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus which broke out in China in December last year and since then, not a single economy across the globe has been spared the hardships from the fallout.


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