Outlook for the “Pandemial” Generation: 2021 Global Risks Report

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Young adults (ages 15–24) around the world are experiencing their second major global crisis within a decade: (1) they entered youth in the throes of the financial crisis, (2) and are now exiting at the outset of a pandemic not seen in generations. They will face serious challenges to their education, economic prospects and mental health.

  The outlook for this generation had already been diminished by environmental degradation, rising inequality (of many types - gender, intergenerational, economic and ethnic), varying degrees of violence, and social disruption from the tech-enabled industrial transformation. While the digital leap forward unlocked opportunities for some youth, many are now entering the workforce in an employment ice age. 

In May 2020, the World Economic Forum’s COVID-19 Risks Outlook warned of a “next lost generation.”(3) According to the Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS), “youth disillusionment” is a top neglected risk that will become a critical threat to the world over the next two years. For younger respondents to the GRPS — the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers — “youth disillusionment” is also a top blind spot.  Hard-fought societal wins could be obliterated if the current generation lacks adequate pathways to educational and job opportunities. 

Read further on “Pandemials: Youth in an Age of Lost Opportunity,” beginning on page 39 of the 2021 Global Risks Report, from the World Economic Forum with support from Marsh & McLennan. 

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1.The UN estimates that “young people between 15 and 24 years of age number 1,21 billion and account for 15.5 per cent of the global population”. UN (United Nations). 2020. World Youth Report 2020: Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the 2030 Agenda. https://www.un.org/development/desa/youth/wp-content/uploads/ sites/21/2020/07/2020-World-Youth-Report-FULL-FINAL.pdf 

2.The economic effects of the Financial Crisis, which began in 2008–2009, peaked in 2009 and 2010.  

3.World Economic Forum. 2020. COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications. 19 May 2020. https://www.weforum.org/reports/covid-19-risks-outlook-a-preliminary-mapping-and-its-implications