Covid Has Wiped Out the Economic Dreams of an Asian Generation

Visitors attend a recruitment fair organized by Thailand’s Ministry of Labour in Bangkok on Sept. 26.

Photographer: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg

Asia’s fast-growing economies for decades have offered millions of young people the chance to do better than their parents, a path to upward mobility now at risk as youth unemployment soars in a region home to a majority of the world’s 15- to 24-year-olds.

These young people — just at the start of their working lives — are losing jobs at a faster rate than older generations because almost half are clustered in the four economic sectors hurt most by the Covid-19 pandemic, including wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, business services and accommodations and food service.

Young women and those on the lowest rungs of the job ladder are among the hardest hit, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank and the International Labour Organization that warns of a “lockdown generation” being left behind.

relates to Covid Has Wiped Out the Economic Dreams of a Generation in Asia

Photographer: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg

Pavisa Ketupanya, 26, from Bangkok, is among them. She had secured a pilot’s license and was planning to follow in her father’s footsteps flying commercial planes when the pandemic put an abrupt stop to her plans.

“When I received a license to become a commercial pilot, I thought this would be my lifetime job with good earnings,” Pavisa said. Instead, she’s relying on a hobby — eyelash extensions — to bring in some money until the economy improves. “It earns a fraction of my pilot job, but it’s better than nothing.”

Front Lines

Younger workers more exposed to hard-hit sectors than adults

Source: International Labour Organization

Stories like hers are replicated across the Asia Pacific region where as many as 15 million jobs for teenagers and young adults could be lost in 13 countries this year, according to the ADB and ILO report.

Global Crisis