A new study has revealed that the youngest cohort in the workforce has been hardest hit by the economic impact of COVID-19.

The research by the ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View, found that half of 18 to 24-year-olds, or ‘generation Z’, have been impacted professionally by COVID-19.

The survey took data from more than 32,000 workers in total, and found that in the UK, over half (54 percent) of workers across all age groups were professionally impacted by COVID-19, compared to almost three-quarters (73 percent) of 18-24-year-olds overall.

In this age bracket, 50 percent of workers have lost their job, been furloughed, or been laid off temporarily, with the likelihood of these scenarios dropping significantly for other age groups; around a third of both 25-3-year-olds and 35-44-year-olds were affected.

This research comes after official figures from the ONS released in April showed that long-term youth unemployment has hit a five-year high, with almost 80 percent of jobs lost in the past year coming from those under the age of 35.

As a result, Generation Z’s optimism about the future of work is rapidly declining.

At the beginning of 2020, 82 percent felt positive about the next five years in the workplace, but this has fallen to 70 percent at the time of the survey.

Significantly, this is the biggest fall in optimism from any age group, with overall levels of optimism in the UK falling just 7 percentage points.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director of ADP in UK and Ireland, commented:

For many, working from home and social restrictions have made it difficult to receive training, benefit from mentoring, or build a professional network.

This undoubtedly has a significant impact on all employees, but those who are least established in their fields have fewer pre-existing relationships and resources to fall back on.

While this can be observed within organisations to an extent, a bigger challenge is on the horizon – how to address the yet unknown impact of reduced in-person education and limited social experience on university students who will soon be entering the workforce.

Despite the findings, Phipps notes how the pandemic has forced Generation Z to be “the most agile of any age group”, and comments on some positives for the cohort on this basis:

This has seemingly resulted in higher levels of professional resilience and confidence for the youngest cohort in the workplace.

Nearly half of UK workers aged 18 to 24 (48 percent) are very or extremely confident that they could find another position that offered the same or better pay if they lost their current job, almost 5 percentage points higher than the next most confident age group – 25 to 34-year-olds (44 percent).


*In order to obtain these results, ADP Research Institute surveyed 32,471 workers in 17 countries around the world between 17 November and 11 December 2020.