The youth face enormous uncertainty about what’s coming next. Many are facing this time with anxiety and distress.

By Ruben Aguilar (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – This week marks the start of two classes I teach at the Ibero-American University in Managua, and one at the CIDE [Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, based in Mexico]. As I prepare, I wonder: “What future awaits my students?”  An article in the Spanish newspaper El Pais, entitled “The generation that will foot the bill for the Latin American crisis” was an attempt to respond to this question. 

Reporters from that newspaper interviewed young people from ages 18-25 in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru. The conclusion was that, with the pandemic, this is the sector of the population “who got the worst slice.”

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The young people in Latin America already had “few expectations for the future”, according to Pedro Nunez, an investigator from the Latin American Department of Social Sciences in Argentina. Now, with the pandemic, these have worsened.

Despite the difficulties they were aware of, four goals give an idea of the youth’s wishes or hopes for their lives before the pandemic.  They were: to finish their studies; find work or open their own business; become economically independent; and move out of their parents’ home.

The youth of different countries coincide in what they’re experiencing and how they’re processing it. What they propose can be generalized to all of Latin America, and possibly to a good part of the world.

From my reading of the article, I can extrapolate the vision the youth have of their future. I organize it into two large categories: the fears they have, and the changes they see as necessary.

Fears

Not being able to finish their studies

Not finding work

Being laid off from work

Not being able to become financially independent from their parents

Having to continue living in their parents’ home

Not knowing how the “lockdown” might affect their relationships.

Not knowing how the changes that result from the pandemic are going to affect their lives

Changes:

Awareness of the need to reinvent themselves.

Reimagining what they want to be and how they want to live.

The idea of time. Living in the now.

Participating in the creation of a more open and inclusive society. Closing the gap of social equality.

Becoming more active in the feminist struggle against machismo and in the fight against climate change.

Questioning the paradigm of a university education. Currently, finishing the university doesn’t necessarily guarantee better living conditions.

Being more creative, in order to generate new opportunities

The post-pandemic world, still uncertain and hard to visualize, demands that society and every one of its members make changes in the way they’ve thought and lived. There are many things in question, and things won’t go back to the way they were before.

The interviews reveal that the youth have an enormous uncertainty about what’s coming. A good part of them are living through this period with anxiety and distress precisely because of the lack of clarity about the future, one in which they’ll have to live.

2 thoughts on “Young People’s Future After the Pandemic

  • The person in Ontario Canada is much better off than in other lower income countries. We have places that you can get free meals every day. The government will give 400 dollars a month plus extra money for rent of a room. We have free internet many places. The Ford government in Ontario Canada and certain insurance companies are costing a few people to expire and many other people to be homeless. But the homeless are well fead and often live in minivans or on the street. Those able to work can make about 10 us dollars per hour to start.

  • “What they propose can be generalized to all of Latin America, and possibly to a good part of the world.”

    They can include Canadian student graduates in the Spanish newspaper article.

    In the Canadian newspaper “The Toronto Star”, the following article dated Monday, August 17, 2020 encapsulates perfectly with the Havana Times article “Young People’s Future After the Pandemic”.

    The Toronto Star article is entitled: “Was the PhD worth it? This jobless 27-year-old lives a very frugal lifestyle. Saddled with $20,000 in student debt she’s worried about her future career prospects.”

    The article does an in depth study of how one PhD student invested her time, energy and resources to achieve a post graduate degree which now, in retrospect, in the midst of the global pandemic she wonders was worthwhile. She does not have a stable job nor does she anticipate achieving one because of the economic consequences the pandemic is causing on municipal, provincial, federal and international job prospects.

    Similar to those Latin American graduating students this Canadian student says she is losing confidence that she will be able to find a meaningful career quickly, or even at all in her field of study, after graduation.

    Pedro Nunez analyzes what the consequences are for these students in these extremely dire economic times. Governments worldwide are cash strapped trying to do their best to control the virus spending an inordinate amount of taxpayers’ money to try and arrest the virus attack. Ditto for private sector companies having to close their doors losing revenue and then slowly opening with major costly renovations and purchase of personal protective equipment (PPEs). There is no money nor need to hire recently minted post graduates.

    Pedro Nunez states students have fears, specifically, not finding work; not being able to become financially independent, as two examples of major fearful personal consequences. The Toronto Star article corroborates his analysis.

    Moreover, the Canadian graduate student, in fact the majority of Canadian graduating university students face another Herculean monetary mountain to climb in having to pay back thousands and thousands of dollars back to the government for their degree. Now with the pandemic and the prospects of a full time well paying job next to nil, those payments will be an albatross on their shoulders for years and years to come.

    It is my understanding that most Latin American students’ post graduate education is free, I could be wrong. If I am correct that is one impediment they need not concern themselves about. Fortunate for them, not so fortunate for their Canadian compatriots.

    One of the “Changes” Pedro Nunez sees is students: “Questioning the paradigm of a university education. Currently, finishing the university doesn’t necessarily guarantee better living conditions.” Bang on.

    Exactly, how the Toronto Star titles its article questioning whether investing all that time, energy and resources into obtaining a PhD degree, in the final analysis, is even worth the effort. Furthermore, to invest and then fall flat into an abyss must be exceedingly demoralizing for any young graduating student whether in Latin America or anywhere else in the world.

    Our future depends on these young minds to be excited, enthusiastic, exhilarated about changing the world. I hope they do not give up.

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