The coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on young people with studies showing that one in three have had difficulty adapting to the changes it has brought, including social restrictive measures. For millions of young people around Europe, social restrictions meant online lectures, a detachment from their community and way of life and a disrupted social life.
But this disruption went beyond social connections.
Despite EU and Member State policy efforts to support young people, they were also hardest hit by job loss during the COVID-19 crisis. Overrepresented in the sectors most impacted by pandemic restrictions and more likely to work on temporary contracts or part time, a Eurofound study found that 12% of 18- to 29-year-olds who responded to at least two rounds of the Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey reported that they had lost their job, with 12% of students also facing unemployment.
The COVID-19 crisis had a disproportionate impact on young people’s life satisfaction and mental well-being compared to older groups. This improved between spring and summer 2020 when lockdowns eased but dropped to its lowest point in spring 2021 when restrictions and school closures returned, contributing to a decrease in life satisfaction and mental well-being where nearly two-thirds of young people were at risk of depression.
To this end, during 2022, which was established by the European Union as a Year dedicated to young people, the European Parliament insisted that particular attention be paid to young people with fewer opportunities and those with mental health problems. The Alma project will be launched later this year, which will promote mobility between different countries for disadvantaged young people.
ALMA will offer participants a supervised stay abroad for a period of two to six months in another EU Member State and a comprehensive project cycle implying coaching and counselling at every step. The objective is to foster their inclusion within their home country by improving their skills, knowledge and experience and give them an opportunity to create new connections across Europe. The ultimate aim is that they integrate into society and find their place in the job market. It will be implemented through funding from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) of around €15 million in the first year.