COVID-19 wastes entry-level labor market and young people will pay the price for years

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British fashion school graduate Phoebe St. Leger’s dream of landing a job with a design brand is on hold. Like many others in the world class of 2020, the pandemic is clouding his career ambitions.The coronavirus forced the cancellation of the fashion show in the final year of his college class, removing the ability to show his knitwear collection to people in the industry, some of whom might have liked his work enough to offer him a job. .

Instead, St. Leger, 23, returned to her family home in Winchester, southern England, and submitted her work online. She applied for around 40 jobs and received only refusals.

“All the jobs have dried up – everywhere,” she says. St. Leger knows of graduates from previous years who have been fired or put on leave and are ready to find a job at a bar.

“It’s still hard to have hope when you can’t see anyone doing well at the moment. ”

All over the world, young people with new degrees, diplomas and professional qualifications are struggling to enter the workforce as the pandemic pushes the global economy into recession. COVID-19 has thwarted hopes of landing a first job – important for jumpstarting a career – as employers curtail their graduate hiring plans or even revoke job postings.

Blurred vision

The latest US employment figures on Friday underscored the bleak outlook: 1.8 million jobs were added in July, a sharp slowdown in job growth from the previous month. This means that the world’s largest economy has only recovered 42% of the jobs lost due to the coronavirus.

According to the US Careers website, Glassdoor says the number of jobs advertised as “entry-level” or “new graduate” declined 68 percent in May from a year ago.

In Britain, companies plan to cut student hiring by 23% this year, according to a survey of 179 companies by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE).

The wave of job delays will reverberate throughout the economy, said Brian Kropp, head of HR research at consulting firm Gartner.

Many graduates will have student loan debts that they cannot start paying off until they find a job, he said.

“If you can’t get an entry-level job today, that means you’re not moving out of your parents’ house, you’re not getting real work experience, you’re only buying your first home. later, and you don’t get married until later. ”

Graduates move home

Michael Welch, 22, scoured job boards for offers and connections after graduating from the University of Connecticut with an engineering degree.

“Suddenly I was in one of the worst job markets in recent history,” said Welch, who has returned home with his parents and is worried about online interviews and starting a job at home. distance.

“Remote jobs are great for someone who doesn’t have to commute and already has a job,” he said. But “for someone entering the workforce, it’s a frightening prospect. It is difficult to acquire technical skills when you are in a remote environment ”.

Noah Isaak, a 2019 graduate and newly certified teacher, applied for jobs in the Chicago public school system and had a few interviews that led nowhere. Most of the people he knows from his program also have problems.

He is now considering applying for minimum wage jobs at Target, Costco, coffee shops and Amazon.

“I am stressed,” said Isaak, 23. “It’s heartwarming that it’s not a personal fault and that other people are going through the same struggle. But it’s hard not to know. “

Long term impacts

A significant long-term effect for young graduates who take longer to find good first jobs is lower wages over the course of their careers, experts said.

A person who takes a year or more to find their first job lags behind their peers when it comes to promotions and also competes with younger people who enter the workforce later.

The problem, like the pandemic, is global.

Job vacancies for graduates in July are down from the previous year in 10 countries, according to Adzuna, a job search engine.

Britain, India and the Netherlands saw the biggest drops, with posts down by more than half from a year ago, but other countries, including Austria, Australia, Brazil and France are also experiencing double-digit percentage drops.

Graduate jobs are expected to decline in 21 countries, with most unlikely to pick up again next year, according to a separate report from the UK ISE.

Worse prospects in economically unstable countries

Newly graduated doctor Maria Jose Casco could not find work after graduating in Ecuador in April. Casco, 24, said she was looking for health-related jobs as well as work in other industries.

Although the pandemic is driving an increased need for health services, she has found that employers are not hiring for full-time jobs.

Maria Jose Casco, a newly graduated doctor in Ecuador, could not find a job after graduating in April. (Dolores Ochoa / AP)

Casco and her husband live off their savings and her monthly salary of $ 480 and plan to emigrate.

“Because there is no future, many of my colleagues are considering the possibility of leaving Ecuador. ”

The pandemic is exacerbating the problems of young people in countries experiencing chronic economic instability.

Two years after graduating from Zimbabwe’s Midlands State University, 24-year-old Emmanuel Reyai is no closer to securing a job related to his degree in local governance.

His research is blocked by both the economic collapse of the African country and the coronavirus epidemic.

“I have applied over 40 times – nothing,” he said, holding a plastic folder containing his college certificates.

Two years after graduating from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Reyai is nowhere near getting a job related to his degree in local governance (Search Mukwazhi / AP)

Over two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s population make their living through informal commerce such as street hawking.

Reyai initially sold cooking gas to a shack in his poor Harare neighborhood, but the local council razed it after the outbreak. Now he makes and sells peanut butter all over town.

“I did my best to apply for jobs,” Reyai said. “But the situation is not improving. It is actually getting worse. ”

In Indonesia, 25-year-old Clara Karina graduated in January with a degree in accounting from a renowned business and finance school in Jakarta.

In Indonesia, 25-year-old Clara Karina graduated in January with a degree in accounting from a renowned business and finance school in Jakarta. (Dita Alangkara / AP)

She wanted to work as a civil servant, but applied for jobs in private companies as the government froze recruitment. Only three out of 20 companies responded – two refused and the third is in progress.

“Companies aren’t hiring new employees, they’re downsizing now,” Karina said. “I need to be more patient. ”

For some, there are happy endings.

In China, Li Xin, 23, graduated in statistics this summer, but started looking for a job in January – just as the pandemic has forced many businesses to shut down. She encountered apparent scams from companies hiring finance and IT jobs that wanted high “training fees”.

Some classmates found a job in the bank thanks to their connections. Others without ties found themselves in industries unrelated to their degrees. Several do tutoring jobs, and Li found one herself but only lasted a week.

She felt hopeless but also realized that everyone was struggling.

Eventually, Li landed a data analysis job that began this month. However, more than half of her class has yet to find a job.

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