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Life, disrupted: young people, education and employment before and after COVID-19

Future of work Career development Higher education Youth

The past eighteen months have revealed long-term labour market trends and highlighted the impact they have on young people. What appeared to be new economic challenges were, in fact, pre-existing social issues magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of these challenges can be traced back to the reassembly and sometimes eradication of conventional occupational structures around the world on the back of post-Cold War globalisation. Automation and digitalisation of industrial production have accelerated this reformation. Job precarity, erosion of working rights, emerging permaflexi arrangements and major shifts in career identity are the consequences. The disruptions caused by the pandemic have highlighted the prolonged disruptions to the daily lives of many young people throughout the world.

This paper explores fault lines that run through the relationship between education and work, such as the contested impact of digital disruption on young people, the rhetoric of soft skills and challenges to the notion of careers, which can no longer be coupled with the idea of a linear pathway to a traditional occupation. Lifelong learning is no longer a desirable activity but a necessity.

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