Collage created by Lenny with ’99p Shop’ Photographed by Michael Ely ©[
Lenny Van Reeth highlights the challenges the ‘coronavirus generation’ is up against
From the boarded-up shops lining thousands of high streets to the eerily desolate roads in city centres, the devastating scale of the pandemic’s impact is brutally clear. Yet as we emerge from a sustained period of lockdown, the shape of Britain’s economic revival is anything but certain.
Nowhere is this felt more than in the economic future of young people, that may forever be known as the ‘coronavirus generation’. The sustained period of abnormality has made many people wish for a return to the status quo.
However this may not be possible. Nor may it be desirable. In fact, this pandemic may be the start of a change for good with young people at the helm. They are among the most active in global responses, advancing health and safety in their roles as innovators, activists, researchers and communicators.
With many employees returning to communal workplaces, research from Eskenzi suggests that 91% of the UK’s office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time. It also reports that people are enjoying considerably more time with their families, while spending less on travel.
Other people express an improvement in their mental health, finding it easier to focus on work, with less time spent getting embroiled in other colleague’s issues.
With all this uncertainty there are a few things that we can be fairly sure of. Here are four ways the coronavirus pandemic may shape your future as a young person.
1: You may find it harder to get a job
As the government’s furlough scheme is scaled back this August, it’s likely that we are going to see some serious job losses across the entire economy, with major stores such as Boots, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer already cutting thousands of jobs.
If you’re young, this will hurt you the most, because when senior management decides which jobs are on the chopping block, it’s not theirs! Rather those who are in low-paid, inexperienced jobs (often on zero hour contracts) are going to face the brunt of this.
If you were thinking of starting a job soon it’s important to plan ahead. Learning new skills, like a language or brushing up on digital technology, can really help you stand out. You might also have to lower your expectations and start further down the ladder, or possibly on another ladder entirely.
2: You’re more likely to go into a sector you never saw yourself in
It’s no secret that the pandemic has impacted society unevenly. The virus, unlike Boris Johnson’s claim, has not acted as a “great equaliser” but has brought inequalities to light, having a disproportionate impact on poorer and BAME communities.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report shows black people are 1.9 times as likely to die as white people, and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are 1.8 times as likely.
In the same vein, the virus has impacted each sector of the economy differently. The hospitality industry, as well as culture and arts, have been significantly affected by the social distancing measures put in place, whilst online services from Amazon to Ocado have been doing better than ever.
To get a job, it makes sense to broaden your horizons and start to think how you could adapt your skills and consider other sectors. The ONS report shows that, in retail and wholesale trade, where 15.1% of labour is needed, only 2.6% express an interest. So these industries are definitely worth exploring, along with renewable energy, information technology and the caring professions.
Your job might not end up where you wished it to be but, of course, that’s no reason for it not to be fulfilling.
3: The shape of your work may change drastically
If you get a job in one of the manufacturing sectors, it’s unlikely that the kind of work you’re going to be doing will change too much. Get an office job on the other hand, and you could see your work life alter drastically.
With much of the country working from home (WFH) throughout lockdown, many people are predicting that office based work is a thing of the past.
This maybe a little over exaggerated; working from your bedroom, kitchen or with your laptop balanced on the ironing board, is something that some people, including myself, don’t find especially enticing. For me it makes the work-life divide harder, and I miss the sociability of the workplace.
What’s likely to happen is that work is going to have a more flexible future. Google and other businesses are already providing far greater WFH possibilities.
4: Chances are, you’re going to have to pay more tax
Of all the things on your mind right now it’s unlikely that taxes are anywhere near the forefront. In fact, chances are, like myself you’ve never paid any tax. Yet in a few years time, it’s likely that taxes will rise.
Providing the necessary support for the many affected by the pandemic, and to prevent the economy going into a full-blown death spiral, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the government will borrow an extra £300bn this financial year. With little appetite for a return to austerity and budget cuts, it looks like taxes are going to be a decent bit higher.
All of this makes for pretty gloomy reading but on the flip side there is potential for positive change.
Out of destruction comes the opportunity for creation. We could use this moment to diversify our economy, build green, address inequalities and narrow down the wealth gap to create a stronger society.
By taking part in community activism and support, we can all begin to make changes at a local level. By working together we can help make the future a whole lot brighter. If there’s one thing this ‘coronavirus generation’ can do, it’s to band together, be adaptable, be patient, supportive and stay positive.