Young people and cooperatives: how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified challenges for youth

23 Feb 2021

Young people have been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In anticipation of new global research to be released in March on young people and cooperatives in the framework of the ICA-EU Partnership (#coops4dev), what are some of the emerging challenges for young people, and how might cooperatives respond to them?

Over two thirds of young people surveyed revealed they face an employment-related challenge, with the risks of a ‘lockdown generation’ all too real. Recent research by the ILO (International Labour Organization) shows that roughly one in six young people have stopped working since the pandemic began, whilst those who continue to work are working less hours. In the educational field, many young people have had to delay their studies or shift to online learning. Disruption to work and education reduces potential employment opportunities and future earnings, whilst job losses and business closures have put the brakes on entrepreneurial activity.

The combined impacts on employment and education also exacerbate existing inequalities, including digital, health and financial inequality, as the gap between rich and poor grows. Young people also highlight mental health as a real challenge, with uncertainty and social isolation leading to increasing vulnerability to anxiety and depression. The combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, already dramatic for young people around the globe, are only just beginning to be felt.


Whilst not a silver bullet, the upcoming #coops4dev research identifies ways in which cooperatives can respond to young people’s challenges. Young people surveyed noted that cooperatives can provide educational opportunities and skills training that can help them find decent work. Cooperative entrepreneurship can provide a collective route for young people to develop innovative ideas with lower levels of individual risk. The resilience of the cooperative model shows how it can remain resistant to collapse, even in light of unprecedented economic and social challenges.

For more insights, the publication ‘Young people and cooperatives: a perfect match?’ is due to be published Wednesday 3rd March. Stay tuned to our social media channels!


The ICA-EU Partnership on international development (also known as #coops4dev) was signed in 2016 between the International Cooperative Alliance and the European Commission to strengthen the cooperative movement as key actor in international development.
Read more about #coops4dev on our website.