The Birth of ‘Generation COVID’

The year 2020 has witnessed the worldwide shutdown of schools, a move to online learning, widespread job losses and a greater risk of mental health problems. All these factors and outcomes completely unforeseen. The question at hand now is, has the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the generations differently on the whole, and more importantly birthed ‘Generation COVID’ in which the young, particularly students, are disproportionately hit by the fallout of the virus? 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last December and the spread of the virus across the globe, there is no doubt that all of our lives have been affected in one way or another. For younger people, a population primarily consisting of students, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown signified a move to online lectures and classes and an unconventional end to the academic year. For many vocational students, the study year is still incomplete as they need to return to campus to undertake practical assessments. Irrespective of subject and level, worldwide students are all united in experiencing unprecedented challenges and the varying responses of individual academic institutions. 

With synchronous and asynchronous learning forming the basis of educational practice for the foreseeable future, students are questioning why fees are not being reduced to reflect a reduction in live contact with teachers. With the new academic year looming, many students around the world have been left in the dark as to whether they can progress onto the next stage of their education, and if campuses are to completely reopen, how will travel and visa delays or more importantly, COVID related health issues, pose a threat to the recommencing of student’s educational endeavours? In addition, a predicted reduction in overseas enrolments could jeopardize the financial health of some of the world’s leading educational institutions. 

Whilst the consequences of COVID-19 will most likely impact the younger generation in the long term with regards to prospects, job losses and a severely damaged economy, it is the elderly who have experienced greater social exclusion due to their lesser usage of information technologies. A longitudinal analysis by Santini states a lack of social connection amongst older adults can lead to a greater risk of depression and anxiety, which would be compounded by COVID-19.  Whilst there are certainly members of the elderly community who are active on social media, the rise in global usage of apps such as Tiktok, of which Oberlo states 44% of 800 million active users are aged between 16-24, demonstrate that it is the young who continue to remain socially engaged on a daily basis. Clearly, a global initiative for the provision of mental health support services is required action by the World Health Organisation to support this cross-generational need.  

All around the world, working aged adults have been hit with the financial impact of COVID-19, experiencing varying degrees of furlough, job loss and the closure of large and small businesses. With various governments now encouraging a return to work and a slow ease into other related activities, many of the biggest firms plan to return less than half of their workforce to the office, and maintain a blend of office based work and working from home. This begs the question of whether Generation Z will ever truly experience practices of the ‘old normal’ in their lifetime, or will they experience a new post-coronavirus norm in the workplace and truly earn their title as ‘Generation COVID’?

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