Youth, especially young workers, most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic â experts
During the webinar, young singer-songwriter Valenciano, who struggles with depression and anxiety, said the pandemic taught her to confront directly the issues she’s had in the past.  “I had to change my whole thought process, the toxic thinking, I learned to appreciate things more. I also learned to flip things over, especially those seen on social media, to keep my feet grounded and focused on what I can do for myself and let go of things I have no control of," said Kiana, who released her “See Me” album under Tarsier Records last February.
Youth, especially young workers, most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic — experts
( - September 10, 2020 - 1:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has put millions of people worldwide out of work, paralyzing both small businesses and big industries.

While we all feel this pain, one group in particular is suffering in silence: young workers.

Globally, over one in six young people have stopped working since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported.

In the Philippines, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) stated that at least 2.6 million workers have already been “temporarily or permanently displaced” from their jobs.

DOLE estimates that around 5 million Filipinos would lose their jobs to the pandemic. Meanwhile, some lawmakers give a bigger estimate of 10 million.

While exact figures on youth unemployment resulting from the pandemic are yet to be revealed, we can all agree that young Filipino workers are not immune to the economic fallouts resulting from this generation’s biggest health crisis.

Vulnerable young workers 

The services sector is hardest-hit by COVID-19, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. More than half of all employed Filipinos belong to this sector.

In fact, among Filipino youth ages 15 to 24, the majority are working in the services sector. This totaled to around 3.8 million young workers, the 2017 labor statistics showed. 

Jobs under this sector include wholesale and retail trade; accommodation and administrative services; information and communication; among others. Those working in tourism, restaurants, and transportation have suffered the most, according to Bello.

Quarantine measures make it hard for the above to continue normal operations. Businesses have endured financial losses, hence can no longer afford to keep as many employees, resulting in retrenchments and salary reductions.

Young Filipinos working in agriculture and industry are also affected.

Although some employees are allowed to work from home, hence are continuously receiving monthly salaries, this arrangement may not be applicable to all workers — given the nature of their jobs. 

At worst, daily wage laborers are not earning at all during the COVID-19 lockdown due to company policies like “no work, no pay.” Mobility restrictions have also made it hard for many workers.

Without a stable source of income, young Filipinos are losing their ability to pay for basic needs such as food, shelter, water and medicine. 

The situation is dire for young workers who have no one else to rely on but themselves. It is especially difficult for those who are also supporting families or whose parents have also lost their jobs or small businesses.

Why young workers 

In any crisis, young workers are the first to be laid off, the ILO observed. This rings true for the Philippines, where some companies value years of service over other qualifications.

It is harder for young people to find decent jobs providing social and legal protection. In the Philippines, this challenge has existed even before the pandemic.

As for young entrepreneurs, it is harder for them to find resources to jumpstart and maintain their small businesses.

Globally, three in four young people work in the informal economy. They are among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, this includes the self-employed, wage workers in precarious employment and unpaid family workers. They have little or no savings at all and cannot afford to take days off. 

Many young workers are in non-standard forms of employment, which often has low pay, irregular hours, no benefits and poor job security. Freelancers may have lost their projects due to the pandemic, leaving them in a financial state of limbo. 

Young women are also more vulnerable because they make up more than half of all young workers in vulnerable sectors like hospitality and food services.

Tech-Voc students affected 

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted students from pursuing their Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

TVET courses require work-based learning such as apprenticeships and on-the-job training, which are now indefinitely postponed. Tech-voc schools might also find it hard to safely reopen classes, since distance learning options are yet to be fully explored. 

Some students may be hesitant in going back to school because of economic difficulties. They are likely to dropout and engage in informal employment to help their families, that is if they could get employed at all.

 A significant number of these learners are stuck in dormitories. Their yearning for home increases as their stress levels, anxiety, and boredom have grown after being in quarantine for more than two months straight.

TVET graduates who were in the process of being deployed to their respective work units have been repatriated back to their provinces. It is uncertain if there are jobs waiting for them.

Meanwhile, several tech-voc workers have already been retrenched due to workplace displacement.

What can be done 

The surge of youth unemployment and discontinuation of TVET, following the COVID-19 outbreak, affects everyone.

Without interventions, resulting economic impacts could last for decades, the ILO stressed.

Even without a crisis, the transition to decent employment is already tough for young people. Especially since 1 in 5 young people, under 25 years old, are NEET (not in employment, education, or training). The transition is now even more difficult because of the pandemic.

"We recommend the inclusion of youth economic empowerment in the conduct of COVID-19 response operations,” said Emilio Paz, Plan International Philippines’ Country Program Manager for youth economic empowerment.

“There should be special interventions for helping affected young workers and entrepreneurs — especially for those who were not reached by government interventions such as DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development Social Amelioration Program (SAP),” Paz continued.

Now is the perfect time to maximize the use of e-learning tools. But given the Philippines’ poor internet services, it is best to come up with other innovative learning options. This is especially true for low-income communities without access to smartphones and the internet.

Plan International Philippines commends Department of Education’s proposal to make use of public radio and television channels to air educational programs, as well as its plans to produce print modules to reach those without access to digital and broadcast media.

The independent humanitarian organization recommends the provision of emergency cash assistance among affected young workers, so they could buy essential needs. Alternatively, they can be directly provided such items.

Cash-for-Work, Food-for-Work, Cash and Voucher Assistance may also be explored among communities. Interventions must be inclusive; hence pregnant workers, people with disabilities, and those without internet connectivity should always be taken into consideration.

COVID-19 response efforts should aim to lessen the burden of unpaid care work on women. Even before the pandemic, women and girls are two to 10 times more likely to take over household responsibilities — this hinders them from partaking in economic activities of their own (i.e., getting a job, running a business). 

Advocacy efforts should educate and invite men and boys to become allies in supporting women's economic empowerment. Special efforts should be made in advocating against domestic abuse.

We should also assess the situation and needs of young entrepreneurs, whose small businesses may have closed or slowed down due to the pandemic.

It is also important to check on the mental well-being of TVET students and graduates, young workers and entrepreneurs, and those who were laid off. During these difficult times, we must ensure that they are not only physically healthy and safe, but also mentally and psycho-socially resilient.

In the coming months, more — albeit not all — businesses will reopen. 

Although they will be permitted by the government to operate, these businesses may no longer have the funds, manpower, capacity, and drive to do so. This is where our help would be mostly appreciated.
We must support young Filipinos in bringing them back on track in their journey towards youth economic empowerment.

Tips for Gen Zs, millennials in coping with mental health crisis

There is no doubt that the year 2020 will go down in the history of mankind as one of the most, if not the most, damaging in terms of loss of lives or global economic and political upheaval due to COVID-19. Add to that is the most likely long-term impact on mental health as the world embraces this so-called “new normal” amid a pandemic that has completely changed how people live their lives.

Focusing on making sure that people feel heard and supported, Globe Telecom, through its Hope Bank online community, recently launched the “#StartANewDay – Let’s talk about mental health” webinar series with “Insights for Millennials and Gen Zs” as the first topic, being the two age groups most affected by stress, anxiety and depression during the community quarantine.

Among the notable speakers were mental health advocates led by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, author and principal sponsor of Republic Act No. 11036 (Philippine Mental Health Law); adult psychiatrist Dr. Corazon Angela Cuadro, occupational medicine specialist Dr. Gia Sison, showbiz personality Kiana Valenciano and #MentalHealthPH co-Founder Roy Dahildahil.

With four children at home, Sen. Hontiveros said the pandemic changed a lot in the way they live but it allowed them to be more open to each other. She added that the prolonged community quarantine may be used to form a stronger bond with each member of the family or address unresolved issues.

“This pandemic revealed how badly we need one another so I suggest we check up on each other, drink 8 glasses of water daily, turn off the news once in a while, find time to do things and enjoy it if you can and take a rest. In the midst of a public health crisis every facet of our health matters. We must take care of ourselves and that amid all that is happening, remember that mental health, especially among the young generation, will always matter.”

Dr. Cuadro, on the other hand, said that the rise in mental health issues among millennials and Gen Z’s is not an isolated case. For this younger set who are used to going out and being free but are now limited to virtual contacts, it may be difficult for most to cope. 

“It’s good that they are now more open to express themselves and there’s a safe space now to talk about them and be allowed to express these emotions and experiences, especially possible anxieties and depressive symptoms.”

During the webinar, young singer-songwriter Valenciano, who struggles with depression and anxiety, said the pandemic taught her to confront directly the issues she’s had in the past. 
“I had to change my whole thought process, the toxic thinking, I learned to appreciate things more. I also learned to flip things over, especially those seen on social media, to keep my feet grounded and focused on what I can do for myself and let go of things I have no control of.”

In light of millennials and Gen Z’s complicated relationship with social media which is also another source of anxiety and depression, mental health advocacy group leader Dahildahil offered a few tips like being aware of the kind of content they are consuming, the manner content is shared which can also affect other people, and understanding how they were affected by it. 

“Emotions can be contagious, so is disinformation. Do some self-checking, how were they affected by social media content and ask themselves why do they use social media. Is it about to connect, to express, to inspire people, and how does it help them? If using social media is not helpful anymore, best to take some time off it, more of a digital detox, to also protect themselves,” he said.

Dahildahil’s views were shared by Dr. Sison, who heads the Makati Medical Center’s Women’s Wellness Center. She said that millennials and Gen Z’s can also avoid being overwhelmed by all the information and negativity by sticking to credible sources of information only. 

“Limit sources of information in the Philippines and gather the more credible facts and even limit social media sites being followed. Use the ‘block’ and ‘mute’ feature of the phone if need be to avoid being overwhelmed.”

All the speakers also expressed gladness that there is now a platform where mental health issues can be discussed freely and positively, where everyone can speak up and let their voices and concerns about mental health are heard and create positive change. The more it is being talked about, the better opportunity there is to find solutions, they pointed out.

As among the country’s leading telecommunication providers, Globe supports the promotion of mental health through its various initiatives such as Hope Bank, a safe online space for everyone to openly express their feelings and thoughts about mental health.  It seeks to empower those undergoing emotional and mental challenges caused by COVID-19 and to boost the morale of frontliners and patients including their families and friends. To contribute, members can just post messages using hashtag #SpreadHOPE both on their personal profiles and in the group. These can be through photos, artworks, quotes, song lyrics, poems, videos or anything that expresses hope and positivity. 

The company also partnered with organizations such as the UP Diliman Psychosocial Services (UPD PsycServ) and New Good Feelings (NGF) Mindstrong’s HOPELINE for free counseling or psychotherapy services for frontliners, COVID-19 patients and relatives and people under monitoring or under investigation. Just call 2919 (Globe and TM subscribers) or 88044673 (landline) for HOPELINE or send a text or Viber message to PsycServ at 09063743466 or 09167573157 with name and concern or accomplish the form found at to receive a call from a PsycServ volunteer. PsycServ is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

RELATED: Flattening the mental health curve: Doctor shares mental wellness tips amid COVID-19 pandemic

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