Youth I.D.E.A.S. 54
Opportunities for Youth Employment Amid the Pandemic
2 November, 2020
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong in late January 2020, the HKSAR government has introduced a number of measures to reduce social contact and cross-border travel in order to control the spread of the virus. However, these measures have hit the economy and employment hard. As a result, the labour market has been deteriorating since February 2020.
According to the Census and Statistics Department, the overall unemployment rate reached 6.4% for the period July–September 2020, while the overall underemployment rate reached 3.8%. The total numbers of unemployed and underemployed persons in the same period were 259,800 and 149,100, respectively, both new highs since 2003. The number of unemployed persons aged 15–34 increased to 106,900 while the number of underemployed persons aged 15–39 increased to 57,300, which amounts to more than 160,000 young people encountering employment problems.
At the same time, the pandemic has also hit graduates and young people who are seeking jobs. The total number of job vacancies was only 39,121 in June 2020, representing a drop of 46.7% relative to June 2019. Even though some people were not affected by lay-offs, a survey has indicated that more than one quarter of employees have faced a pay cut of over 30%.
The pandemic is not only affecting the local labour market, but also the global economy and labour force. Reports from the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that there was a total working-hour loss of 17.3% in the second quarter of 2020 relative to the fourth quarter of 2019, representing 495 million full-time equivalent jobs. The crisis is expected to continue into 2021. The ILO has also pointed out that the younger and older age cohorts of the working population, as well as those in informal employment, have been hit particularly hard, more so than in past economic crises.
Facing the unclear employment future amid the pandemic, society needs to seek innovative and feasible solutions to address the youth employment problem, and young people need to make more forward-looking preparations in this new environment. Through an online survey and in-depth interviews with individuals who have encountered employment difficulties, this study seeks to understand the specific struggles of young people, their attitudes and specific actions taken to equip themselves to deal with the new employment market. It also aims to understand the changes of the overall economic environment and labour market through expert interviews. By synthesizing these analyses and findings, it is hoped that feasible recommendations can be made to address the youth employment problem amid the pandemic.
This study uses data collected by three methods during the period September–October 2020: an online survey of 600 members of The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups aged 18–34 who have left school, case interviews with 20 young people in the same age group who have encountered employment problems during the pandemic, and interviews with four experts.
2.2 Marginal workers
5.2 More experienced workers fail to adjust their mindset to find a secondary job opportunity when facing employment problems.
 Source: Census and Statistics Department web page. Retrieved 16 October 2020, from https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/
 The employment figures for July–September 2020 are provisional.
 Census and Statistics Department. (September 2020). Quarterly report of employment and vacancies statistics. Hong Kong: Census and Statistics Department.
 JobsDB. (15 July 2020). “More than one quarter employees face a pay cut by over 30% Employees pursue for more flexibility in work arrangements”. Retrieved 23 July 2020 from https://hk.jobsdb.com/en-hk/pages/news-media/
 International Labour Organization. (23 September 2020). ILO monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. (6th ed.) Retrieved 12 October 2020 from https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_755910/lang–en/index.htm; International Labour Organization. (30 June 2020). ILO monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. (5th ed.) Retrieved 23 July 2020 from http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/impacts-and-responses/WCMS_749399/lang–en/index.htm