During the pandemic there has been a lot of talk of who is in greatest need.  We look at who is the most vulnerable and who should get the vaccine first; who is most financially affected and which industries should get greatest support; which geographies or age groups should be under more severe levels of lockdown; who is likely to experience the greatest effect to their mental health.

When looking at the statistics that are published on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, it is easy to see a few trends: the elderly are far more likely to die or suffer severe illness; those that work in the hospitality or retail industries are most likely to be either furloughed or made redundant; socialising and travel is restricted and generally frowned upon.

Looking at the graph I've included below, we can see that the percentage claiming unemployment benefit (Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit) in England is far higher for those aged 18-24 than the percentage for everyone of working age. In Oxfordshire we can see that, at the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, the rate of youth unemployment was the same as the rate of unemployment across all ages, but in April we see the gap develop.  Indeed, young people account for 46% of the overall fall in employment during the pandemic, but they represent just one in nine of the workforce.

A Youth Futures Foundation report shows that only one in six people aged 16 to 17 is currently in employment, the lowest rate ever. It also finds that 47% of those furloughed are aged under 24.  When the job retention scheme comes to end we can be confident that a proportion of those furloughed will be made redundant.  Roles in retail, hospitality and tourism industries are frequently held by the young, and it is many of these roles that are most likely to cease to exist.

It's not only employment that matters.  A person's social life and connections to the society in which they live is probably of greater importance.  We like a sense of stability and we develop habits and routines to meet and keep connected with those whose company we enjoy.  So which age groups have been most affected by the pandemic and lockdown? 

I've come to a conclusion that, looking back over my life (I'm very nearly 50 years old), the experience of this pandemic would have been most miserable of all during my early adulthood.  I know that everybody has a different experience of life but between the ages of 18 and 30 I had some good times.  I went to pubs and clubs; I moved out from home; I had jobs in bars, restaurants, an auction house, and in entertainment in the events industry; I went to university; I hung out with friends, chased a few girls and had relationships with fewer; I travelled to Morocco with a girlfriend; and went to parties where I met hundreds of people.  If the pandemic and lockdown had been going on then, I wouldn't have been able to do any of that.  My university experience would have been very different, I probably wouldn't have met most of my friends or girlfriends,  I wouldn't have gone traveling, I would probably have been unemployed, and, worst of all, I would have had to spend most of 24hrs a day 7 days a week with my parents!

So, next time you see a few younger people together, perhaps not adhering perfectly to social distancing rules, before you tut, try to remember what you were like at that time of life.  Their lives have have probably been disrupted more than anyone else's.  They deserve more sympathy, and thanks for how well they are behaving during these most trying times.