jeunes avec masques

A new “Generation Pandemic” may be emerging according to an Oxfam-Québec report

Montréal, June 22, 2020 – Today, Oxfam-Québec is publicly disclosing the findings of its recent report Youth and COVID-19. The report reveals that the impacts of the public health crisis – with regard to education, employment, and mental health – on young people between 10 and 24 years of age may be so significant, this cohort may now constitute a new generation dubbed “Generation Pandemic”.

In light of these findings, Oxfam-Québec and its partners (Dina Husseini for Inclusion Jeunesse, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Kathia Alexandra Narcisse and Steve Drizos (co- chairs) for Comité des jeunes de la FTQ, the CEVES (Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social) and the AQOCI (Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale) are calling on the governments of Québec and Canada to take urgent action to mitigate the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Taking action now is crucial to prevent the addition of yet another burden on this cohort, the generation most likely to inherit a deepening climate crisis.

Profound disruptions that jeopardize fragile acquired rights

The Oxfam-Québec report sheds light on the seismic disruptions to young people’s daily routines and underscores potential repercussions in the coming years. From a global perspective, the pandemic has already undermined advances in education, poverty reduction, peacebuilding, healthcare, and human rights. The unfortunate implication is that young people themselves will need to combat this erosion of acquired rights, in addition to managing the many challenges associated with the climate crisis.

In terms of the pandemic’s impact on employment, a recent survey by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) found that 17 percent of young people aged 18-29 - or one in six - are no longer employed while 42 percent reported a decline in income.

In Canada, the sharpest drop in employment is seen among young workers aged 15-24, where one in four either lost their job or had their work hours cut. This effectively increased youth unemployment from 10.3 percent in February 2020, to 16.8 percent one month later.

The six pillars of a youth-inclusive recovery plans

Today’s youth is part of the largest generation of young people in global history: 1.8 billion people - or 25 percent of the world’s population - are currently between 10 and 24 years of age. The U.N. has deemed this young cohort to be a “unique demographic dividend” capable of generating lasting change. In late April 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres sent a powerful message to the international community about the pandemic’s critical impact on young people, as well as the importance of including this cohort as equal partners and leaders in combating the pandemic and deploying the ensuing recovery.

Despite being at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 (particularly in terms of leading outstanding communication efforts on the risks associated with COVID-19), young people have too often been represented as part of the problem, which further marginalizes them. As evidenced by the many eloquent findings in the Oxfam-Québec report, young people worldwide are in fact driving action to combat COVID-19, while continuing to defend their vision for a fair, equitable recovery.

Efficiently fighting COVID-19 and “building back better” will require relentless determination and an unshakeable commitment to working in equal partnership with young people. The Oxfam-Québec report calls for strong intervention to combat the pandemic; it further demands a global recovery plan that includes young people and rests on six critical pillars:

  1. Recognize, engage, and include youth as leaders and equal partners
  2. Protect young people’s rights and civic space
  3. Ensure a just and sustainable recovery.
  4. Invest in inclusive, accessible education
  5. Support young people’s mental health.
  6. Incentivize youth-led action

These six pillars provide a guiding framework to ensure efforts by the governments of Canada and Québec to address the pandemic and revive the economy - both nationally and internationally - will contribute to an inclusive, equitable, and green future.

Similarly to Canada’s previously-expressed willingness to incorporate an analysis of specific impacts on women and racialized persons when developing pandemic intervention and recovery policies and programs, inclusion of a youth perspective is equally essential. In fact, it is vitally important that the governments of Québec and Canada explicitly promote youth inclusion and rights, while recognizing the diverse aspirations and needs of young people worldwide.

A call for the implementation of a youth consultation mechanism

It is imperative that the governments of Québec and Canada follow the model set by Ontario (which is working to strike an advisory committee) in soliciting youth collaboration when developing and implementing their recovery plans.

Oxfam-Québec, along with Dina Husseini on behalf of Inclusion Jeunesse, ENvironnement JEUnesse, Kathia Alexandra Narcisse and Steve Drizos (co-chairs) for Comité des jeunes de la FTQ, the CEVES and the AQOCI call upon both levels of government to urgently implement an open, accessible youth consultation mechanism. This mechanism should comprise a representative sampling of youth diversity and organizations, and a rigorous accountability process.