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Responding to the pandemic: How are youths dealing with it?

Younger generations are among the most affected demographics for the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts. In Southeast Asia, young people are battling a bleak job market and struggling economy, which affects both new graduates looking for work and currently employed youth.

To look at how exactly the younger generations are dealing with the pandemic’s effects, SCMP hosted a discussion panel during the annual China Conference: Southeast Asia moderated by SCMP Asia Correspondent Raquel Carvalho. The panelists were Zhihan Lee, Co-founder and Group CEO of BagoSphere and Ashoka Fellow; Michael Brosowski, founder and co-CEO of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation; Hayley Roffey, Managing Director and Designated Lead and Co-lead of the Global Development Team for the Global Fund for Children; and David Bishop, Associate Professor of Teaching at the University of Hong Kong and Fudan University.

As people just entering the workforce without a foundation of years of experience, young people have been hit incredibly hard by COVID-19’s economic crisis. Ethnic minorities and women are especially vulnerable to economic struggle. Because they are already vulnerable populations, added crises exacerbate their challenges.

Economic conditions are not the only stressor young people face. Their unique position in society has lead to an influx in mental health struggles, as well.

Without the support of secure employment or an established presence in their communities, younger generations are more likely to experience the depression and anxiety that accompany major crises like a pandemic. They are facing an uncertain future and sudden instability that has yet to be addressed by their governments.

No government has found a way to properly combat the struggles of younger generations yet. With how slow most governments are in creating and enacting policy changes, their focus has been on addressing the COVID-19 crisis overall. They have not had a chance to consider other populations.

Any policies governments have made have not addressed the mental health and economic struggles young people face. As countries procure vaccines, they will likely continue to focus on vaccine distribution and overall economic recovery.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were looking for immediate emergency assistance. The focus was on informing people about COVID-19 and helping them stay safe.

Now, however, people need long-term support and viable solutions. Governments have to help their populations, especially young people, recover from a devastating pandemic.

Once vaccine distribution has been completed, governments will need to focus on supporting their citizens. They must find ways to address the wide range of socio-economic challenges that arose over the past year.

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Razlan Manjaji

He reads to be informed, and he informs to be read. Head of Global Events for the South China Morning Post.