The number of people being made redundant in the UK has risen at the fastest rate on record as the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic continue to bite, with the number of people aged 16-24 in work falling particularly sharply.
In Glasgow, Saskia Harper has been struggling to find a job since being made redundant in June from her role as a magazine journalist. “I was furloughed in March but then I was told they didn’t have the funds to keep me on,” said Harper, 23. “It was devastating. Not only did I lose a stable income, I also lost a job I really loved.”
So far she has had no interviews, only rejections. “I went into the process with a really positive mindset but now the job hunt has become physically draining,” she said. “It’s also affecting my mental health: the stress of running out of money, applying for benefits and feeling unproductive.
“The hardest thing is being away from my support system. My family live in Aberdeen and not being able to be around people physically as I navigate through this has felt a bit isolating.”
Harper is using her small savings but is worried they will last only until the end of the month. “It’s an anxious time for everybody but if I think too much about it then it starts to close in and gets a bit harder to cope with. I’ve got my health and my family and I’m still hopeful things will bounce back.”
In Oxfordshire, Jack Warhurst, 19, has been looking for a job in hospitality since April after he was let go after six months working for a hotel, providing room service. However, there have been scant opportunities. “There’s not really anything going round here,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do so I’m just waiting for it to blow over.”
He has been receiving £340 a month in universal credit, “which is not enough to live off”, while working through his small savings.
“The last six months have been very tough,” he said, adding that if he didn’t live at home he would not know what to do. “I can’t do this for much longer. I think this will probably break a generation to be honest.” He added: “There should have been more safeguards; there was the furlough scheme but a lot of businesses just laid people off as they thought it would end up hitting them in the longer term.”
Meanwhile, Isabel Rodger returned home to Manchester in August after six months of trying to find work in Australia, and has still not been able to find a job. “While I was there I was interviewed for some admin roles,” said the 24-year-old. “Employers said they wanted to hire me but couldn’t because of a potential lockdown. Once it happened I really struggled.”
Depite experience working in restaurants and bars she has found job hunting in Manchester “pretty disheartening”, and has been rejected about 15 times. “I’ve been employed in at least a part-time role since I was 14 so these circumstances are not only unusual, but stressful for myself and my family”.” Both Rodger and her brother now rely on their father for financial support, even though they are in their mid-20s.
“I applied for JSA [Jobseeker’s allowance] over a month ago and as of yet haven’t heard anything.”
Rodger says the government is not doing enough for young people: “They’ve left a lot of us in the dark without advice other than to ‘retrain’ in a different field. I feel loath to do this when the reality is that I am already £51,000 in debt from my degree.”