During the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed as a result, affected the entire world at a large scale. Among the sectors of economy, tourism, education and also the private sector, it should not be underestimated the impact that Covid had on people’s lives and their daily routine, which resulted in their reduced opportunity to meet and have social contact1. Between two worlds, the professional and the social, there lies an entire sphere of projects like conferences, trainings and seminars that are supposed to benefit one’s life, especially those of young people in terms of networking and academia. So, while it is important to talk about the effect that Covid-19 on the youth and their daily lives, it is as important to also acknowledge the effects of the pandemic in the youth sector and youth work.
Considering that almost every country in Europe went through a national lockdown for a minimum of two months, and continued to abide to strict measurements, they faced a decline in several fields and one of these fields is the youth sector. When talking about the youth sector, the focus falls on NGO’s, voluntary work, and governmental bodies dedicated to youth activities. Normally, all the aforementioned went through the same difficulties and struggles during this ongoing pandemic. According to a survey conducted by The European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy (EKCYP)2, youth sectors in European countries were affected by the Covid-19 in relation to: public funding, employment condition, state operated programs, and NGO programs and youth work.
EKCYP got a response to the survey from 24 countries and the analysis of this survey is presented as it follows. Regarding the public funding component, it remained approximately the same during the lockdown. The response of the majority of the countries when asked about the Covid-19 impact on the public funding was mainly neutral in national, regional and local level. In some countries, the state funding was increased and directed to digitalization. On the other hand, the impact on the employments and their conditions during this pandemic was ranked as strong, very strong and neutral from over 85% of the countries. In countries where youth workers depend mostly on European funding, they experienced employment insecurities and reduced hours of work. Concerning state operated programs or youth work services, the impact was seen as mostly strong and very strong. The major issue being social distancing, they could no longer organize face to face project. Therefore, there had to engage in online platforms, which brought its own challenges such as lack of capacity or resources. One of the main problems which arose from this is the rural/urban divide and the youth at risk which experienced the most severe impact. In regards to NGOs, they also experienced the same difficulties as the previous. The impact was rated as very strong and strong. NGOs had to cancel their activities, close their centers, they could not reach young people. At the same time, calls for funding were suspended which made it difficult to plan future activities. Everything had to move online, and in some countries this was demanding as they didn’t have the digital resources or skills.
Most importantly, the general impact of the Covid on young people was also one of the elements analyzed by EKCYP. According to the report, the pandemic affected their mental health, as the level of anxiety increased. Young people could not meet their friends, they felt responsible for the health of older family members and also insecure about themselves. They were not offered any psychological support, there was less support from organizations and less opportunities to participate in projects.
In conclusion, this report was based mainly on EU countries, and yet the impact of Covid was perceived as generally very strong. The same conclusion can be reached from countries out of the EU who were not part of this survey, but who most likely experienced the same difficulties, if not more obstacles.