Yet young people have been among the hardest hit by the economic consequences of COVID-19.
Investing in skills, education, quality jobs and mental health will help young people rejuvenate their educational and career prospects, empowering them to face the future with confidence.
Following this year’s World Youth Skills Day, take a look at the OECD’s work on youth and its initiatives to bring young people into the policy conversation. To explore digital skills for young people and more, check out the Power of Youth page.
At the initiative of the Italian Presidency of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in June 2022, the OECD has stepped up efforts to put young people and the challenges they face at the heart of policy-making – including placing youth participation as a top priority to build a strong and inclusive recovery.
Delivering for youth: How governments can put young people at the centre of the recovery compiles the views of youth organisations from 72 countries on their experiences through the COVID-19 crisis and related government action.
It offers insight into all publicly available national response and recovery plans across OECD countries.
When surveyed in 2021, a majority of OECD-based youth organisations felt that their government had not incorporated the views of young people when taking emergency measures and decisions to mitigate the crisis.
Only 15% of respondents felt their government considered young people’s views when adopting lockdown measures and a mere 26% somewhat or strongly agreed that their views were reflected in the design of financial schemes to help prevent job and income loss.
Governments, NGOs and civil society will need to work together to increase opportunities for young people to shape response and recovery measures in their own countries.
Of the voting-age population across OECD countries, 34% is between the ages of 20 and 39. This compares to 22% of members of parliament (MPs) aged under 40 (from 36% in Norway to 8% in France).
Young participation in public institutions helps ensure public decisions take account of a plurality of views, which supports accountability of policy decisions while bolstering greater public responsiveness to all citizens’ needs and preferences. And it can help build greater public trust.
Young people have reported much higher levels of anxiety and depression since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the general adult population. This has widened existing differences.
Data from July 2021 point to 44.8% of young people reporting symptoms of anxiety in the US, compared to 27% for all adults, while 38.6% reported depression compared with 22.1% of adults. Earlier OECD data (from March 2021) showed that young people were 30% to 80% more likely to report symptoms of either depression or anxiety in Belgium, France and the US.
More data and analysis to identify young sub-groups – such as women, LGBTI+ and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds – that may need more support will be needed to better target extra mental health resources.
Engaging young people in the labour market is a matter of personal growth and development – and also of economic growth and social cohesion.
The spike in unemployment as economies locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic underlines the disparity in outcomes by age group: the blow dealt to 15-to-24 year-olds was much harder than to older age groups. The resulting scarring effects on young people hits individual well-being and diminishes the productive capacity of economies – highlighting the need to invest in youth to create quality jobs and build confidence in their future prospects.
How can governments and policy makers do more to help?
Younger adults experienced some of the biggest declines in mental health, social connectedness and life satisfaction in 2020 and 2021, as well as facing job disruption and insecurity.
While the feeling of disconnection from communal life became a widespread reality for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, the young were consistently more likely to feel left out compared to older age groups at given stages of the pandemic.
This new OECD report looks at how recovery policies centred on long-term well-being can help the most vulnerable and support efforts to rebuild natural, human and social capital after the COVID-19 crisis. These include greater access to lifelong learning, bolstering social capital and strengthening trust.
"I firmly believe that we should stop idealising entrepreneurship. Many policy makers believe that entrepreneurship is key to solving many economic issues, yet they do not offer the proper aid for entrepreneurs to succeed and fully participate in the solutions our societies need."
"As a recent graduate, yes, I want to find a job that will provide me with security and an opportunity for a decent living; but equally, I want to ensure that any job I have doesn’t contradict the ecological and social values I hold."
"Data trends show that more young men are gaining digital skills than young women. To see that men are primarily the ones getting a STEM qualification and employment is discouraging. Equal opportunities for both young men and women is key in producing a diverse workforce."
"I find the significant role played by youth organisations during the recovery encouraging. As a student rep, I have experienced first-hand the tremendous contribution they can make to decision-making. I hope decision-makers develop lasting partnerships with youth organisations and this continues beyond the crisis."
"I understand that more than two billion people will need to upskill or reskill to meet the demands of a radically transforming job market. In this context, lifelong learning is critical and learning practical skills—digital or otherwise—is as important as a theoretical understanding of the world."
"At the height of the pandemic, almost 1 in 5 young people were unemployed. Young people struggle to find jobs because they lack the experience of older workers. I think that one solution is subsidising in-work training to encourage employers to hire less experienced youth."
"In 2020, unemployment rose by 6.6% for young people and 2.7% for people aged 25-74 – a trend we can also observe during the 2007-2009 crisis. Yet, I believe the COVID-19 recovery is taking place more rapidly for young people, which gives me hope for my generation."