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July 16, 2020

School leavers in the UK are facing an uncertain future

School leavers in the UK are facing an uncertain future

This year’s A-level students faced schools and colleges closing in March, cancelled exams and are deprived of casual employment in sectors such as retail and hospitality. In addition to apprenticeship opportunities being very limited, many universities, such as Cambridge, have started transitioning to creating online courses. School leavers who would usually have to decide whether to take time off travelling, start working or go to university have found themselves with very limited options.

IZA World of Labor contributor Philip Oreopoulos agrees that opportunities for graduates are bleak. “Many will be unable to find full-time work after finishing high school or completing a postsecondary program,” he writes in his opinion piece. Another IZA World of Labor author, Bart Cockx, also believes that youths entering the labor market this year “risk experiencing considerable negative impacts on their careers.” However, he writes that “we should harness the current generation of youths through targeted wage subsidies and study grants at cohorts graduating this year.” “Some countries, like Canada, are providing immediate financial assistance to students unable to find summer work or who have had their job offers revoked,” Oreopoulos writes.

Ben Forrest, 18, from Bradford had planned out his summer in the lead up to starting a journalism course at the University of Leeds this autumn but instead he has found he is spending his days in limbo. “Before this happened, I was really excited. Now I don’t know what to do with myself. When I’m occupied and doing stuff, I’m all right, but when you have those days when you’re not doing owt, it’s not great for the mental health side of things,” he said. While Forrest has spent months engrossed in books and meeting friends in the park, he still has a lot of difficult days.

Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, observes that lockdown is felt more acutely by 18-24-year-olds than any other age group. “You’ve gone through puberty, with the rush of hormones that entails. You’re confronting big questions about what you want your future to look like. When you’re thwarted from exploring those questions as you had intended, you’re likely to see anxiety and depression.”

Read Philip Oreopoulos’ opinion piece Graduating during the Covid-19 recession and Bart Cockx’s opinion piece The coronavirus crisis and the next generation.

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Find more Covid-19 content on IZA World of Labor. You can also find our recent opinion pieces on the pandemic and its effects here as well as our most recent videos on the effect of Covid-19 around the world here.