More than half of young people believe their career prospects are worsening, a study suggests.
Over two in five (44%) of 16-25 year-olds say that their learning of work skills has worsened as a result of the pandemic, according to the research by the UCL Institute of Education.
Researchers found there was a “sense of anxiety and hopelessness among many young people” alongside fears for their job prospects.
The paper, which analysed data from 1,000 young people in the UK who were interviewed in February, suggests that 53% of 16-25-year-olds perceive their career prospects are worsening.
The deterioration in the acquisition of work skills was worst for those who remained in education during the pandemic, the report suggests.
Nearly three in five (58%) of those remaining in education thought their learning had worsened, as opposed to just 4% who thought that their learning experience was improved.
The report says: “The perception of lost learning is behind much of the increasing concern about the future. For those who fail to gain employment, it appears that young people do not need reminding of ‘scarring’ by the experts: they already know and fear the effects of unemployment.”
Lead author Professor Francis Green, from the UCL Institute of Education, said the findings confirm “the heavy toll that the pandemic has wrought on young people’s lives”.
She said: “The survey shows that the pandemic has had an effect on how young people see their future as well as their present state of well-being.
“Coming into direct contact with Covid-19 themselves, or among their family and close friends, has failed to dent their optimism or life satisfaction.
“But those who perceived a detrimental effect on their job skills development due to the pandemic were less optimistic about their chances of finding a well-paid and enjoyable job, and had lower satisfaction with life.”
Three in five respondents felt more worried, anxious and depressed than before the pandemic, while around half felt less useful and less optimistic about the future, the survey suggests.
Researchers warn the effects of the lockdown on young people could be long-lasting, even if their employment and social environment were to return fully to “normal” within six months.
Prof Green added: “Young women collectively experienced relatively greater negative effects on their well-being than young men. Well-being was also disproportionately worsened among all young people who were struggling financially before the pandemic.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have taken unprecedented steps to help young people to continue their learning, to protect jobs and to support well-being.
“Our Plan for Jobs is helping young people fight back from this pandemic by creating fresh hope, real optimism and levelling up opportunity across the country.
“The enhanced Youth Offer provides them with access to support from our Youth Hubs and Kickstart, which has already created 150,000 approved job placements.
“Through our Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Skills Toolkit, more apprenticeships and more traineeships we are helping young people get the skills they need as we build back better.”