Navigating the World of Work During COVID-19
What do you do? How has your work changed over the past year? What role does work play in your life?
These kinds of questions highlight the central role of work for many individuals and families—beyond exchanging time for a paycheck. Work offers opportunities to fulfill basic needs, support oneself and one’s family, participate in society, and for some, to express identity and purpose. Year after year, however, unemployment rates for young people remain far greater than for the general population. When young people are unable to gain a foothold at work, they lose more than a learning opportunity. They are disconnected from the social networks, family and community contributions, and sense of identity that work can offer.
Unemployment has spiked dramatically over the past year, and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have widened the longstanding employment gap between young people and the rest of the working population. Further, young people of color, already facing the greatest barriers to decent early employment prospects, are experiencing disproportionate hardships as they try to secure sustainable employment in good jobs. For these reasons and more, youth unemployment and underemployment has grown in size, complexity, and urgency during the pandemic.