Measures implemented to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic have had a disproportionate effect on younger generations. Faced with a bleak and uncertain future, young people have seen an unprecedented decline in opportunities this year. With their concerns neglected during the pandemic, they have been told to put their lives on hold for the foreseeable future, yet young people are right to speak up about their concerns. Sadly, dealing with the impact of lockdowns and restrictions on teenagers and young adults seems rooted to the bottom of government agendas.
Instead, many commentators focus on demonizing young people and portraying them as exceedingly selfish for daring to speak up about their current challenges. Millennials and Gen Z are all too often held in collective disdain over the large social gatherings organized by a minority of young people. It is deeply troubling that many legitimate concerns around employment opportunities, education, social contact, and mental health can so easily be dismissed.
An unprecedented decline in opportunities
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a devastating decline in opportunities for young people. Over the course of 2020, education has been disrupted, and unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, has reached record high levels. Many of the sectors where young people are traditionally able to find employment have been those hardest hit by government restrictions. These problems have wide-ranging implications, with repercussions that will continue to be felt for a long time.
Many students are seeking to defer their education, preferring not to pursue a college education until after the end of the chaos created by ever-changing restrictions. Due to the lack of employment opportunities, young people are now more likely than ever to stay financially dependent on their families for a longer period of time. This in turn also places an increased burden on older generations. Consequently, it is in everyone’s interests to keep businesses open, affording them a chance to save themselves from financial ruin while at the same time offering opportunities to young people, who are far less likely to contract a severe case of COVID-19.
The prospect of economic devastation also presents greater challenges in caring for the vulnerable. If everyone is out of work, with no money, funding quality healthcare would inevitably become an insurmountable task. Thus, in this sense, the struggles inflicted disproportionately on young people by extreme government measures will have a negative impact on society as a whole. The ideal position from which to protect the vulnerable is one with a resurgent economy.
Students treated as second-class citizens
Throughout this crisis, the well-being of young people has not been adequately taken into account. This has been especially true in recent weeks, since the beginning of the academic year, whereby students have been treated unfairly.
In many places, young people traveled to their costly student accommodation, having been led to believe that their lectures would take place in person. They believed that the academic year would unfold in a state of relative normality, and that their presence was required. Instead, many discovered that they would have been better off staying at home, since most their courses were moved online. Essentially, students were misled into wasting significant sums of money on their accommodation.
Subsequently, in many cases, the atmosphere on campus soon became more like what would be expected in a detention camp. Students were subject to bans on households mixing, a heavy police or security presence, and bans on attending any hospitality venues which did not apply to the general public.
In Scotland, it was even suggested that students would not be allowed to return home for Christmas. Often, if anyone tested positive for COVID-19, entire student residences would be placed under strict lockdown measures. Students have been physically barred from leaving their buildings, resulting in some experiencing food shortages. Human rights groups have raised the issue of whether this amounts to false imprisonment.
Further lockdowns are not a viable solution
The least likely to contract a severe case of COVID-19, most young people have sacrificed so much during this pandemic in order to help protect the more vulnerable. However, it is important to remember the correlation between sustained periods of lockdown or heavy restrictions and the cost incurred by younger generations.
It is important to realize that it is not possible to eliminate the virus through any level of restrictions. Instead of promoting well-being, further lockdowns will only do more damage, particularly to the future prospects of young people. In order to find a viable long-term means to protect the most vulnerable individuals, the emphasis must shift towards allowing young people to become part of the solution.
Instead of having their interests ignored indefinitely, to the detriment of their mental health and prosperity, young people should be able pursue their goals and thus play an important role in building a resurgent economy. This is also far more likely to result in better outcomes for those wishing to shield themselves from the virus, as the younger generations will be better equipped to offer assistance.
What do you think of this issue? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter by mentioning @sfliberty with the hashtag #StudentsNotPrisoners.