Young workers and Covid: battered finances, but broader online horizons

The pandemic has disproportionately hit young people’s economic prospects, with research finding that under-25s in the UK are more than twice as likely to lose their jobs compared with older workers.

Here three young people share their feelings about how the coronavirus crisis has affected their finances. Some say they have managed to save money, while others have had to move back in with their parents after falling into debt.

For Alex Moody, 24, an engineer for Siemens living in Loughborough, the pandemic’s impact on the housing market has halted his search for a home.

“I have been saving for a while now and have a good wage," él dijo, “but looking to buy a house on my own has been a huge struggle. The market has dried up during the pandemic so I was stuck sharing a cramped flat with a friend, with no garden, during lockdown. My work’s taken a hit, to be honest. I’ve found I make more errors more often while working in my tiny living room. It’s tough, it’s a distraction.”

Competition from buy-to-let landlords in his price range of £100,000 to £150,000 had exacerbated the problem, said Moody. “Cheaper houses need more work done to them, and are snatched up by professional landlords, especially in a university town like Loughborough.”

The rental market wasn’t much better, él dijo. “My landlord is now also looking to sell my current flat, so I have to move out soon. I’ve applied to several tenancies that stretch my budget and have around 10 applicants each. I’ve not been accepted yet. A lot of flats in Loughborough only accept students, and prices are increased because of the university as well. I’m going to have to move in with my partner’s parents. Without my partner, I’d have to take the hit and completely relocate to another area.”

Financially, the last 18 months have been volatile for content writer Alice Florence Orr. Cuando la pandemia golpeó, the 24-year-old from Edinburgh had just moved to Melbourne, where she was working in an admin role at a yoga studio. A month into her time there, her hours were slashed to nothing as the city locked down.

“I used all my savings to hold out in the hope of continuing that job once full operation restarted,” Orr says. “I was applying for jobs out there but had no luck at all, and as I’m not Australian, I wasn’t entitled to any benefits. I ended up in both my overdrafts and borrowing thousands from my parents – I don’t come from a wealthy family, they had to dip into their retirement to help.

“I’ve been living at home in Edinburgh since August and feel very grateful," ella dice, adding that she plans to move to Glasgow with her boyfriend soon.

After studying for a master’s degree over the last year, alongside working in several remote roles, Orr has recently started working for a London-based company. She thinks the possibility of remote working has offered a boost to young people outside the capital. “I’m now on a better salary than either of my parents. I think it’s shown that you don’t have to do a London internship – which I could never afford to do, it was just out of the question. Now that employers are looking at candidates from about the country, it feels like a much more even market.”

Like many employees who began working remotely when the pandemic struck, Kate Llewellyn, a 25-year-old consultant living in north London, initially found she was saving a decent amount on commuting costs. But as the winter months wore on, a fair chunk of the money she was saving on travel expenses and going out started going towards online purchases.

“In the first few months of pandemic I managed to save about £800 a month," ella dice, but that figure dwindled following the January lockdown. “I wasn’t a big online shopper before the pandemic – I was really against it, I got all my clothes from charity shops. I just gave in to online advertising a lot more, because when you’re having a rubbish week working in your bedroom, there’s nothing else to do," ella dice.

“The winter lockdown was so grim, I started spending extortionate amounts on random things which have had very little use – I bought a Lakeland pasta maker, which I’ve used twice and is now gathering dust. I was also ordering bouquets of letter box flowers just to ‘cheer myself up’.”

Although she estimates she’s saved around £400 a month on transport and weekday lunches, Llewellyn, who has only been into the office a couple of times since March 2020, misses being around colleagues. “I’ve started with a new team and not met any of them – I definitely feel a bit disconnected," ella dice, adding that “a big part” of what she enjoys about her job is “the social side”.”

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