Blog Post

The scarring effect of COVID-19: youth unemployment in Europe

Even before the pandemic, youth unemployment in the European Union was three times higher than among the over-55s. COVID-19 threatens to undo the last decade of progress: policymakers must act to avoid Europe’s youth suffering the scarring effect.

By: and Date: November 28, 2020 Topic: Inclusive growth

Click here to access the full infographic dashboard about the impact of Covid-19 on youth unemployment in Europe.

Youth unemployment increased dramatically in several European Union countries during the Global Financial Crisis. It took several years before youth unemployment rates came down to, or fell below, pre-crisis levels. Even by 2019, this had not been achieved in all EU countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic is now posing the same threat: younger generations are facing a harsher labour market than older generations.

Fig. 1 EU Unemployment rates (%labour force)

source: Bruegel based on Eurostat

Figure 1 shows unemployment in EU countries for workers aged 15-24 and those aged 55-64. Youth unemployment increased during the second quarter of 2020, while unemployment remained almost unchanged compare to the year before for the older cohort (we did not find a significant difference when adjusting youth unemployment for gender; see Fig. 2 in the annex).

A glance at labour market slack data, or the shortfall between the work desired by workers and the volume of work available, does not provide any cause for optimism.

Table 1 shows that young active jobseekers are two or three times less likely than those aged over 55 to be able to find a job. The professional experience of older people plays a crucial role in this disparity, which makes tackling unemployment among young people all the more pressing in times of rising unemployment.

Moreover, Table 2 shows a substantial increase in the proportion of under-25s who are not even seeking work, even though they are available to work (unemployment figures only include those who are actively seeking work: the numbers in Table 2 include discouraged jobseekers and persons prevented from looking for work due to personal or family circumstances).

The scars left by youth unemployment

Youth unemployment should worry policymakers.? Beyond the immediate negative effects of unemployment on individuals and public finances, youth unemployment has been shown to have longer-term effects. The literature on the ‘scarring effect’, the effect of being young and unemployed, shows there are irreversible consequences (see for example Arulampalam, 2001; Darvas and Wolff 2016). For instance, Gianni De Fraja and Sara Lemos found that “an additional month of unemployment between ages 18 and 20 permanently lowers earnings by around 1.2% per year”. Burgess (2003) found that unemployment early in an individual’s career increases the probability of subsequent unemployment.

There is some controversy about the long-term effects of youth unemployment on the employment rate. Barslund and Gros (2017) and Mroz and Savage (2006) suggested limited effects, while Eurofound (2018) data showed higher long-term unemployment numbers. Eurofound (2017) data and Scarpetta et al (2010) highlighted longer-lasting scarring effects from long-term unemployment, including decreasing optimism about the future.

Schwandt (2019) showed that people who enter the labour market during a recession earn less and work more but receive less welfare support. Moreover, they are more likely to divorce, and they experience higher rates of childlessness. Furthermore, Strandh et al (2014) found that youth unemployment is significantly connected with poorer mental health. It is important to underline that periods of unemployment later in life do not appear to have the same long-term negative effects.

In summary, the labour market is much more difficult for younger people than older people. Like the last big recession, the economic fallout from the pandemic will leave many young people in Europe unemployed, with long-lasting social and economic consequences. Yet in the EU, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen did not identify youth unemployment as a key policy concern in her state of the union address on 16 September 2020. The European Commission and national policymakers must urgently focus on supporting young people in coping with the challenging situation. Beyond supportive macroeconomic policies, they must target funding towards the hiring of young people and training measures.

ANNEX 

fig. 2: Youth employment by gender (19-24, % labour force)

 

This blog was produced within the project “Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe“, with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. 

Recommended citation:

Grzegorczyk, M. and G. Wolff (2020) ‘The scarring effect of COVID-19: youth unemployment in Europe’, Bruegel Blog, 28 November


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article
 

Blog Post

Inclusive growth

Concentration of artificial intelligence and other frontier IT skills

Online job postings indicate that demand from top tech firms for frontier IT skills is about double their demand for other IT skills. This could indicate increasing concentration of skills in a few firms, with other firms left behind.

By: Wang Jin, Georgios Petropoulos and Sebastian Steffen Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: October 21, 2021
Read about event
 

Past Event

Past Event

A hybrid future of work

Addressing employers’ and employees’ challenges.

Speakers: Julie Brophy, Joost Korte, Laura Nurski, Renske Paans and Alex A. Saliba Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: October 19, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

Inclusive growth

Making antitrust work for, not against, gig workers and the self-employed

Policymakers should act to deal with labour-market concentration trends that potentially harm workers, especially gig workers and the self-employed.

By: Georgios Petropoulos Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: October 11, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Blog Post

European governance

Pandemic prevention: avoiding another cycle of ‘panic and neglect’

Agreement is needed at international level on mechanisms to ensure better preparedness for the next pandemic.

By: Anne Bucher Topic: European governance, Global economy and trade Date: October 7, 2021
Read article More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Is tech redefining the workplace for women?

Laura Nurski, Sabine Theresia Köszegi and Giuseppe Porcaro explore the relationship between artificial intelligence and job transformation and ask whether the impact differs by gender.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: October 6, 2021
Read article Download PDF More by this author
 

Policy Contribution

Inclusive growth

Do robots dream of paying taxes?

The digital transition should be managed – and taxed – alongside other societal transitions, but any tax on companies that replace employees with automated systems should be targeted and carefully designed to not stifle innovation.

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: October 5, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Letter: Declining investment may explain why rates are low

Perhaps an analysis of the causes of the declining investment rate would bring us closer to explaining why real interest rates are so low.

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: October 1, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

What Evergrande signals about China's economic future

Under Xi Jinping's new economic agenda 'common prosperity', China is cracking down on indebted real estate developers like Evergrande.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global economy and trade Date: September 30, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

Monetary arithmetic and inflation risk

Between 2007 and 2020, the balance sheets of the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Fed have all increased about sevenfold. But inflation stayed low throughout the 2010s. This was possible due to decreasing money velocity and the money multiplier. However, a continuation of asset purchasing programs by central banks involves the risk of higher inflation and fiscal dominance.

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: September 28, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

The pandemic’s uncertain impact on productivity

The pandemic has certainly permanently affected our way of working. Whether this is for the better remains to be seen.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: Macroeconomic policy Date: September 28, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Inclusive growth

For remote work to work, new ground rules are needed

The pandemic has shown workers and employers that another way to work is possible. The European Union should develop a framework to facilitate hybrid work.

By: Mario Mariniello Topic: Inclusive growth Date: September 23, 2021
Read article
 

Blog Post

Inclusive growth

Remote work, EU labour markets and wage inequality

More remote working in the wake of the pandemic could exacerbate wage inequality, with young workers, women and the low educated potentially losing out.

By: Georgios Petropoulos and Tom Schraepen Topic: Digital economy and innovation, Inclusive growth Date: September 14, 2021
Load more posts