Youth employment rates have stabilized since 2020 – but many of us are still struggling in the post-pandemic era the job market
To say the pandemic has had life-changing effects on Gen Z is like saying the water is wet. Aggravation Mental Health crisis, lack of graduate studies prospectsat teenagers feeling ‘stunted’it’s clear that COVID has had a devastating impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
For those of us graduating in 2020 and 2021, entering the workforce in a “post-COVID” world has been a minefield to navigate. I’ve spent most of the last three years on autopilot, not wanting to deviate from my goal of getting a degree, finding a job, and then moving on. And although I graduated and moved, I didn’t find a job right away – which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that employment for seniors between 16-24 decreased by 156,000 between May and June 2020.
Things changed in August 2021, when finally an offer – for an underpaid position in a media company – came to me. I took the job immediately, mostly to give up nights of job hunting and instability, but also because working for said company felt like I was finally starting my budding writing career.
But it was not easy. The job wasn’t all it was supposed to be, and I felt compelled to return to work after a period of sick leave. Quitting smoking didn’t seem like an option with the cost of living soaring. Every time I tried to find a new job, opportunities started slipping through my fingers due to the amount of competition, and very quickly I gave up the idea of being able to evolve outside of my role. I was miserable, but that didn’t matter as long as I maintained the charade of a smooth transition to adulthood.
I’m not alone either: speaking to independent and conservative film programmer Christina, she told me that it was getting more and more stressful as she ended up fighting time itself. Instead of being 21 or 22 and applying for programs in the film industry, she’s now 24 — nearly 25 — and aging out of eligibility for many of these entry-level programs. range. “It’s as if I had lost time through no fault of my own. How is that even fair? I just feel like I was cheated,” she explains.
A significant sum 2020 and 2021 graduates also enrolled in “panic mastery” degrees due to new free time and lack of job opportunities. This was the case for journalist Sabrina: she tells me she wasn’t sure this trajectory would have happened without COVID, as she felt increased pressure to improve her CV in order to get a job.
Like me, Sabrina eventually found a job, but her experience was hellish. It wasn’t until she was denied permission to work from home a few days a week — a request she had made due to her fear of exposing her mother to COVID — that she realized. how selfish his employers were.
“One of the editors called people who wanted to work from home ‘snowflakes’ and said if they didn’t want to come back to the office they should reconsider their work,” she says. “I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, but I felt like there was a real fear of losing your job.” All this is too familiar to me. I faced a similar situation in my previous job: knowing that you had a great opportunity to work and having a safety net (however small) means that you are shaken with guilt when you are thinking of leaving.
Sabrina has since quit her old job, but her experience has always affected her. She explains that given the instability of the labor market, she felt compelled to stay there much longer than she would have liked.
Some once thought that COVID would be a big leveler and pave the way for a more equal society – but Professor David Spencer of the University of Leeds says the opposite has actually happened. “COVID has revealed and entrenched economic inequalities. The prospect is that this inequality will worsen as the government seeks to cut public spending,” says Dr Spencer. “The recovery has seen salary discrepancy behind inflation, leading to a crisis in the cost of living. Benefit recipients have been particularly hard hit, as have those in the public sector who have faced wage freezes.
Not only that, but we have also recently seen a shift in public policy to help the rich with tax cutsas well as those who suffer from long COVID find themselves without the support they need. Those of us who choose to leave jobs we no longer enjoy are seen as lazy or unemployable. In addition, new research from the Prince’s Trust has revealed that 51 percent of young people feel that their aspirations for the future are now lower, due to the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.
Just like Sabrina, I also ended up quitting my job. I was worried about the new gap in my resume, but I just couldn’t imagine working for a company that wouldn’t let me have more than four incidents of illness a year. I spent the next month packing my things, spending whatever savings I had on moving – which led me to go back to Universal Credit to get by.
I feared that due to my foolish choice to give up my job, my life would implode – but it never happened. The world kept spinning and I finally got off autopilot. I could now think about what I wanted to do with my life. At the moment I don’t have a specific career in mind, but I find myself writing more and in the last two months I feel a lot more comfortable than I did in the last year . My friends tell me that I look like myself again, and that’s something I don’t want to lose, especially not for a job.
When I think back to myself in 2019, I wonder if I would have come to this understanding if COVID hadn’t happened. Maybe I could have spent less time worrying about the future and more time discovering myself – but I guess we’ll never know.