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Impact of COVID-19 on youth: An In-depth study

Since Bangladesh went into lockdown to control the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the marginalized and the poor fell into misery. The youth of Bangladesh immediately responded to the humanitarian needs of people amid the pandemic. Young Bangla the youth-led platform of Centre for Research and Information (CRI) took initiatives to create awareness among its youth network all over Bangladesh who are involved in volunteering activities. It has organized three webinars on 30th March, 1st and 2nd April 2020 with 200 community youth leaders and health and wellbeing practitioners to discuss on the COVID-19 outbreak and the risk factor in tackling this. The health experts shared their opinion and discussed about the challenges volunteers were facing during the field activities. The participants received guidelines and directions from the renowned health experts.

Young Bangla felt that to understand the situation of youth amid COVID-19 crisis, online consultations are not enough. It would require in-depth study. It decided to conduct an in-depth study to know the impact of the COVID-19 on the life of youth.

Focus of the study:

Based on the discussions with the youth leaders during online consultations, focus areas of the study was identified:

• How youth are dealing with the present COVID-19 pandemic situation
• What will be the long-term consequences of the crisis in youth’s life
• How will youth overcome setbacks and thrive during post-COVID-19 era

Objectives of the Study:

• To assess the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on youth’s life
• To identify the challenges of the post-COVID-19 period
• To prepare a set of recommendations for youth development during post-COVID-19
• To prepare a policy advocacy brief

The participants

The study was conducted among 30 youth (17 males, 13 females) changemakers who have been involved in community work for a long time. Considering the lockdown and social distancing protocols, interviews were conducted either over telephone or online (Google Hangout/Skype) medium. A semi-structured questionnaire was used for this purpose.

Study findings:

I. Personal and social life

The study identified some concerns among the youth due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Due to the disruption in regular activities, students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers all are passing a challenging time as they are staying at home for over a long period.

Many youths are facing economic hardship which is the prime concern to them for now as there are uncertainties over income and many of them already exhausted savings as employers are not paying salaries.

Most of the participants mentioned that they are passing time in domestic chores, helping the family members. For some, this is a totally new experience as they hardly engaged like that before.

Some of them shared about their daily routine shift, as they are not entitled to any activities outside home, their daily activities have change a lot. Some mentioned they are having difficulties in adjusting with the new routine.

This pandemic has a visible impact on people’s dietary routine. Many started to follow some steps believing that it may help develop immunity to fight the virus. Some of the youth mentioned they have started to bargain less for the food of their own choice rather than taking the food that families afford to serve. Financial hardship could also be the reason for being thrifty.

The study notices that those who are involved in any voluntary activities are having a busy time as they are engaged for the humanitarian causes. Their involvement with people through voluntary initiatives has both positive and negative impacts on their personal life as they are working in the frontline, they receive numerous requests for relief but can be of little help because of limited resources. This affects their mental health.

Among the 30 interviewees, 13 participants are female and this study finds distinguishable impacts of COVID-19 among female respondent. Females are also tackling different type of social pressure along with COVID-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 induced leisure time allows more time for interference into people’s personal areas and female’s marital status or involvement in social activities. Besides, another challenge that female-led households are dealing with is that they cannot ask for relief or grant for the fear that society would take it in a negative sense.

Post COVID-19 challenges

Most of the youth mentioned that their regular family income is already shrinking due to the fewer activities and some of them mentioned they are depending on loan from the relatives and friends so repayment of the loan is going to be an issue at the post-COVID-19 period. Some of the participants mentioned that family members will expect them to become a source of income helping families to recover from the financial crisis they are currently facing.

Also, there is a growing concern over increasing crime rate as many people are running out of money and this could be an alarming social issue.

Most of the participants suggested the time could be utilized by getting involved in creative and constructive activities such as home gardening, taking care of the elderly people, making handicrafts for which can be sources of income as well.

II. Education and skill development

33% participant reported that they are going to face a session gap due to suspension of academic program for uncertain period; this adds an extra financial pressure because those who were almost at the end of a semester now have to wait for long for a revised session plan.

This study finds a growing trend of getting involved in new skills by the youth respondents. The majority of youth shared they are already attending some soft skill development courses online and some youth organization itself arranged skill-based sessions where they focus on some skill relatable to the future of work.

One thing almost every participant refers to is that “Digital Bangladesh” came into reality as many institutions came forward with online and electronic medium endorsed classes and tutorials. People saw the benefits of the digital revolution.

Some participants mentioned that students with special needs are facing serious disruption of their learning. As many special kids are hyper and hardly manageable without proper routine work, due to shutdown they and their families are passing terrible time.

How the Covid-19 outbreak is going to impact the education and skill development system

There is going to be a major shift in the educational system that many educational institutions are going to introduce online learning in the curriculum. This is already widely practiced in the developed world as they are practicing ‘Learning anywhere, anytime’ from long before. But the reality in our country is that due to poor internet connectivity, rural population is yet to access remote learning in full scale.

A new area of expertise or interest is going to be the center of discussion for upcoming years. Environment, health, social work, and ICT are going to be leading academic fields of tomorrow.

III. Employment and entrepreneurship

During the COVID-19 outbreak, among the participants, some are working in the frontline, some are working from home and getting salary duly, some are working but not getting paid for a minimum of two months and some already got hints of getting trimmed by their company though none among the participant lost job yet.

Entrepreneurs are going to be highly affected by the situation. One mentioned that he runs a school for special children. In this situation he has no option but to close it down. The salary of teachers needs to be paid while parents have stopped giving monthly fees.

Many participants shared the concern on repayment of the monthly bill of IT training centers run by them. Not everyone is ready to welcome the alternative way of learning therefore it is a big challenge to conquer overnight.

Post Covid-19 challenges

Some youth talked about positive aspect of the situation that, even if many people are at risk of losing job in the upcoming days, they can fight back with their entrepreneurial skills. As Bangladesh’s economy is largely dependent on the agriculture sector, there is plenty of scope for developing agro-based enterprises.

Some participants mentioned that earlier they did not think of getting involved in any income-generating activities parallel to their studies but now they are planning to get one. They think that they have to work very hard to deal with poverty and uncertainty.

Entrepreneurs who are involved in demand-supply driven businesses are going to be at the front of risk because during the period of COVID-19 outbreak people are only buying necessary goods and trying to cut unnecessary items from the purchase list. This also impacts the fancy and luxury items market. If there is more supply than demand, this will result in price fall which may affect small business owners.

IV. Social work-philanthropic initiatives

The majority participants are involved in social and philanthropic activities and run voluntary organizations at their localities. Usually, these organizations are run by the fund received from community support and income-generating side project. Some participants said during the present situation they are getting huge support from people to run aid program for the unprivileged section of the society.

Post Covid-19 challenges

Here is a growing tension among the community leaders that donations is going to dry up during the post-COVID-19 period as it is assumed that there will be a global crisis of funds as most countries.

Another challenge youth-led organization might face is that youth will feel less motivated for social work due to the pressure of livelihood in post-COVID-19 economic order.

V. Health and mental wellbeing

The prolonged lockdown and shift to an isolation period from any kind of social interaction has an effect on mental health of youth. Most of the participants reported tension and anxiety because of the uncertainty, and the fear of becoming ill or seeing a loved one become ill. Severe sleep disruption reported by almost everyone.

There will be a shift world-wide as health and mental health is going to be the center of interest for more research and development.

Many youths are assuming there could be an increase of intolerance to different views as people are staying in social isolation for a long time. There is possibility of increasing religious fundamentalism as many rumors and misconceptions are present among the people about the disease.

VI. Sports, entertainment and recreation

Most of the participants recognized the fact that the current situation only allows them to do things staying at home, therefore they are trying to get busy doing whatever they like to do. Some are pursuing childhood hobbies like gardening, playing indoor games, archiving pictures to the album, or sewing clothes. Many youths stated that they are getting engaged in household activities along with other family members.

Many choose to do freehand exercises and light sports with other family members. Watching movies or maintaining short diaries is also on the list.

Post Covid-19 Challenges

As we already know that many international sports events halted for the recent scenario this will have impacts in the long run. There could be pressure on fundraising activities through sports and it will be tough to get participation as well.

Digital mode of entertainment got the benefit of this lockdown period, people will be leaning towards online entertainment mostly.

Youth Recommendations

1. As there is valid concern of future unemployment/joblessness, some participants suggest more private public partnership for creating scopes of placement in every industry with a strong determination.

2. Access to telecommunication should be more inclusive to lessen the gap. The price of data is still a headache for many because it is still costlier compared to our neighboring countries.

3. The government should give emphasis on preparing the skill population according to the international skill need and destination for migrant workers.

4. Most of the participants are interested in creating their own ventures in near future. Therefore, they urge for availability of easily accessible and collateral-free loans for small and medium entrepreneurships.

5. Government can create a national One Stop Centre for job seekers from where job seekers will receive employment information and supports.

6. School those run special curriculum for the special child must get support and direction from the government so that a special child can access to proper support at their home.

7. Some participants suggested that social organizations must develop new plans for their sustainability in future. If the organizations run skill-based income generating activities, this will help them in the long run.

8. It is suggested by many of them that, Bangladeshi sports professionals may plan for the post-COVID-19 fundraising initiative.

9. The participants recommended the government to take initiative to regain public trust and faith, especially in the health sector. Massive health sector reform is required to tackle future health crises efficiently. The respondent also suggested to appoint knowledgeable and wise resource person in healthcare sector. Some respondent talked about the need base appointment of microbiologists, virologists, molecular biologists, lab technologist at the health sector.