Tuesday 15 September 2020 3:03 am

Debate: Have young people been hardest hit by lockdown?

Last week, politicians split opinion by suggesting that young people were partly to blame for the sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

It led to cries that young people have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus lockdown – while others think this is not the case.

Read more: We are facing a mental health crisis among our young people

For the City A.M. debate, Sean Farrington of tech skills firm Pluralsight and Tony Hughes of public sector software company Civica look into whether young people have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Sean Farrington, senior vice president for EMEA at Pluralsight, says YES

Young people have been disproportionately affected by lockdown, with the International Labour Organisation finding that 23 per cent of under 25s in the UK workforce were furloughed and 9 per cent lost their jobs entirely. 

Even for those still employed, there has been a 23 per cent decrease in working hours on average.

Students in particular are facing significant challenges, missing out on months of face-to-face education. 

It is likely that neither work nor education will ever be the same again, but an increased focus on access to online learning provides people of all ages with the opportunity to continue to expand knowledge, fill skills gaps and be in the best possible position to take on job roles for the future. 

The pandemic has brought a greater demand for technology skills than ever, and an increase in top grades for computing is a positive sign for the future of our tech sector.

Using online learning to continue to nurture and develop this pipeline of tech talent will be key, as will tailoring learning to individuals’ needs.

Tony Hughes, executive director of local government at Civica, says NO

It is our over-70s that have become more isolated and therefore hit hardest by the lockdown. 

While we cannot ignore the mental health and social impacts for our younger generation missing education and not seeing friends, it is the forgotten generation (our over-70s) that are most at risk of being left behind.

According to a recent study, older people are becoming less cognitive as a direct result of lockdown. 

In addition to the clear dangers the virus presents to the over 70s, the Office for National Statistics also found that this age group were twice as likely to report anxiety during the lockdown compared to young people. 

We often forget it is the elderly who become the most isolated during a crisis. 

There have been great use cases of technology keeping people safe and connected, and our own research, A Word from the Wise, found that the over 70s are using technology and have an appetite to engage.

Read more: Coronavirus: Rule of six comes into effect as UK tightens lockdown

But as technology advances, it is this age group that needs more support. 

As we move out of Covid-19 restrictions, a priority must be to ensure older people are aware of and can access vital communications and online services, especially with further local lockdowns and the very real threat of a second wave.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.