Young people are saying that they want to be part of the solution, in many cases they want to BE the solution; they just need some practical help from those around them in order to be positively mobilised towards their futures and to positively impact their communities. This is a finding from A youth COVID-19 quick poll by Lucha Lunako, conducted in May and June 2020, to find out from young people aged 18-34 years about how the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown had impacted on their lives and their futures.
How have young people been impacted by Coronavirus?
Young people were asked how they felt about catching the coronavirus. More than six out of 10 young people are “very worried” about catching it. Hoping to avoid the virus, 87% of young people say they are wearing masks when going to the shops and 78% are social distancing while in public. Some extra effort is being made to avoid the virus, including 41% of young people taking flu medicine or vitamin C. However, 25% of young people acknowledged that their communities are still socialising outside their homes.
Preferred news sources about the virus include the Presidential announcements for nearly 80% of young people, but 57% of young people are also following mainstream media. Additional information is being provided by doing their own Google searches (53%), or receiving Whatsapp messages (41%), and via social media platforms such as Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (36%). Only 31% are getting their information by talking to family and friends.
How have young people been impacted by the lockdown?
The lockdown has had a significant impact on young people, however, nearly 70% felt that the lockdown was the right choice at the time to protect people from catching the virus. Only 52% of young people felt that the lockdown was still needed; 23% said it has caused too many problems; and 12% believe it has gone on too long. Time spent during the lockdown for young people was challenging for some, with 35% saying they felt frustrated at having to be inside. When asked how they kept busy, 53% said they spent their time watching TV and on social media, as well as connecting with friends (25%). Some strain on family relationships was reflected, with 21% saying that they found all the extra time with their family stressful, however 41% said they found the extra time “okay”. A further 38% made no comment on family relationships at all, which could be indicative of family relationships that are under strain as well.
The largest financial impact for young people is that they can’t go out to look for work anymore. It is interesting to note that while 19% felt they had lost money due to the virus; 30% felt that they had lost money because of the lockdown itself; and 28% of young people admitted that they borrowed money as a result of the lockdown, which has put them deeper into debt; 32% said their finances have been impacted because they can’t go out to look for work anymore. Whatever the reason, young people are experiencing financial challenges that will need to be addressed as they look to find ways to move into their futures post lockdown.
Some 35% of young people said that there is no food assistance in their communities; 24% said that they don’t know where to find it; and 21% said that it has not yet arrived. Nearly 10% said they had already received food assistance.
What role does access to data and Wi-Fi play in young people’s lives?
Practically, young people highlighted some tools that would be of use to them as they moved into their future. Many of these related to issues of connectivity and data and 60% of young people in this survey felt that the cost of data is too high. With money being tight, 11% said they spent under R100 a month on data, 23% said they spent between R100 and R200 on data and 26% said they spent more than R200 on data. With 60% of these young people aware of what they spent on data, 40% did not know exactly what they spent on data, but the overall sentiment was that it is a cost barrier in their lives.
Wi-Fi was even more concerning, with 24% saying they never have access to Wi-Fi, 17% saying they always have access to Wi-Fi, and 15% saying they sometimes have access to Wi-Fi; and 43% said that access to free data or Wi-Fi would help them move forward. Given the low availability of Wi-Fi, young people’s reliance on data is unlikely to change, and the prohibitive cost of data will continue to play a role in how they are able to move forward into their futures.
When pressed on how they spent their data, 37% said that they spent it on Whatsapp and social media; but at the same time 35% said that they would be willing to spend their data on good online courses. In fact, 50% said that getting access to free online courses would help them move forward. So, data is not solely viewed as a route to entertainment but also to empowerment as long as the online course is good. Only 3% expressly said they would not spend their money on online courses.
How do young people feel about the future?
In terms of perspectives of the future, over 50% agreed with the statement that they “felt uncertain about the future”. Some said they were frustrated at not being able to plan, others said they just felt stuck. Jobs were of concern with some worrying about whether there would be jobs available in the future (42%) and even if there were jobs, young people were concerned about how they would find them (34%). Skills development was another theme that found resonance as 24% of young people said that they had not finished learning important skills that they would need for jobs in the future. Around 10% of young people were transparent enough to say that they feel demotivated about the future and that they were avoiding it. However, it was encouraging that 27% of young people specified that they still felt good about the future despite all the circumstances of 2020. References to preferring entrepreneurship to job searching is another indication that young people are aware that jobs might not be available in the future and that they are interested in providing their own solutions to these new circumstances.
Practical ways to help young people move forward into their future
Motivation for the future was something young people were interested in engaging around, with 58% saying they would really like to read, hear or watch people talk about how to become motivated about the future (58%); as well as get practical tips for how to plan for their future (58%). Young people are wanting to engage positively around their futures. They are open to a wide range of options as to how to move forward in their lives, but six out of 10 young people are saying that they need some practical help on how to move forward in various ways. Specifically, what they are asking for is to be able to connect with people or peers and to get practical advice that will motivate them towards their future.
Are young people interested in getting involved in their communities?
Young people are also interested in being mobilised within their communities: 55% showed interest in sharing information about coronavirus in their communities; 44% said that would be interested in helping within their community in general during the crisis; 47% showed interest in becoming changemakers within their communities; 41% said they were interested in distributing food aid; 40% in volunteering with community service organisations; 36% in joining a National Community Service Programme; and 34% in delivery hot food for vendors. Only 11% said they would prefer not to get involved.
You can download the full Youth Covid-19 Survey Report here: https://www.luchalunako.com/download-the-youth-covid-19-survey/