Young people twice as likely to work in sectors shut down as a result of coronavirus, report finds

Businesses encouraged to consider future recruitment as study identifies six million workers at higher risk of job insecurity

Young people aged 16-24 are twice as likely as the rest of the workforce to be employed in sectors of the economy that are shut down because of the coronavirus crisis, according to a report published today.

The study, Risky business, conducted by think tank the Resolution Foundation, identified more than six million UK workers employed in sectors that have been ordered to shut down to maintain social distancing safety measures. This includes industries such as hospitality, retail, leisure and the arts.

Between 25 and 55 per cent of 16-24 year olds work in these sectors, compared with less than 20 per cent of the rest of the workforce.

The report also noted that while workers in these most affected sectors were likely to be better shielded from the most serious health risks of the coronavirus pandemic, they were “instead likely to be bearing the brunt of the economic hit, [because of] furloughing or job loss”.

Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK, said the effects of the coronavirus crisis on young people’s job prospects had been a source of concern for her organisation throughout the pandemic. “There are predictions that youth unemployment could rise to two million should the economy not bounce back quickly,” she said.

Rawlings called on employers to recognise the key role they played in supporting young people at this time. “Even when an employer has to pause recruitment plans, there are things that we can all do to stay connected with young people and ease this period of uncertainty,” she said, suggesting businesses include clear information on their recruitment pages about their approach to Covid-19, and work with youth organisations to offer mentoring or virtual workplace activities. 

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“We would also encourage businesses to take the time now to consider their future onboarding and recruitment process, as the cohort of 2020 is going to look very different,” she said.

The report also found women were more likely to face the brunt of the health risks posed by the pandemic. More than a third (36 per cent) of working women are in key worker roles in sectors such as health, education and food retail – including two in five working mothers – compared to just 18 per cent of men. This makes women twice as likely to be a key worker than men.

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion officer at the CIPD, said employers should be considering staff wellbeing first and foremost during the crisis. “Many employees will be juggling responsibilities such as work and childcare or eldercare,” she said.

“Where possible, employers should take a flexible approach to when people work, enabling them to balance responsibilities without the often unnecessary pressure of working traditional office hours.”

Joe Levenson, director of research and policy at the Young Women’s Trust, noted the report’s findings showed young women faced the highest risks to both their health and their job security.

“The fact that young women in low-paid work bear the biggest health and economic risk from coronavirus comes as no surprise, given their likelihood of being vital key workers but also long forgotten by policy makers,” he said, calling on government policy makers to place higher value on women’s unpaid work, and increase support for workers on insecure contracts.