Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a coronavirus-free future – more way of life

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Lives that had been focussed on school, university, sports or even going to K-pop concerts vanished overnight for members of Gen Z as the global pandemic struck.     While a lot was once heard approximately older people at risk from Covid-19, this younger generation – born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s – also saw their worlds turned upside down in 2020. Reuters profiled 10 young people around the globe to be informed how their lives had been affected by the coronavirus. Shut up in bedrooms – many forced to live with their parents – some went from being students, athletes and workers to taking care of sick relatives and doing whatever they could to earn money to enhance families. One teen even became a mother. Like everything to do with the pandemic, nothing was once equal. Some were hit harder than others, depending on personal circumstance, location and how quickly the virus was once contained.

    As they look towards 2021, members of Generation Z share concerns that their lives may have taken a worse hit from COVID-19 than their predecessors, the Millennials, suffered after the 2008/09 financial crisis. Beyond the instant damage to education and job prospects is the risk of what economists call “scarring”, or long-term harm to earnings, training, career prospects and even mental wellbeing.    Here are their stories:

CREMA, ITALY

At the start of 2020, Elisa Dossena had turned 23 and was once having a look forward to getting an undergraduate degree and pursuing a masters from one of Italy’s most prestigious universities.

    Then Italy became the first European country to be hit by the pandemic. It turned her world upside down, putting her plans on hold and forcing her to grow to be the de facto head of a stricken household.

    While Dossena was once studying in Milan, COVID-19 began ravaging her circle of relatives and relatives in the town of Crema approximately 50 km (30 miles) absent in Italy’s first “red zone” in the northern Lombardy region. She returned home to help.

    Both her 59-year-old aunt and her 90-year-old grandmother succumbed to other illnesses and died after the virus weakened them. Her father had severe breathing difficulties, despite the fact that it was once never decided whether COVID-19 was once the cause.

    “I had to handle the house, I had to administer everything for everyone because my mother was once engaged having a look after my father, engaged with my grandma, helping my cousin when her parents were ill. So I felt a large number of pressure, a large number of responsibility,” she said.

    “It was once a very negative period for me. But it also made me grow a lot,” said Dossena, sitting in the lounge of her circle of relatives home in Crema.

    After a three-month lockdown in June, restrictions were lifted and Dossena could see her friends again.

    But a fixed fear of catching the coronavirus loomed like a dark cloud over them all, getting rid of the tactile culture of hugs and kisses for which Italians are famed.

    “People don’t consider shaking hands, hugging or assembly new people,” she said. “When I entered a closed space. I could feel the palpitations, the anxiety … surely something changed.”

    A new spike of the virus in late autumn meant her commencement ceremony was once held via webcam, denying her the extended circle of relatives celebration that in most cases accompanies the personal milestone.

    She is now studying remotely for a masters degree in management and hoping for just a little of normality in 2021.

    “I’m hoping people can leave their homes freely. I’m hoping it’ll be imaginable to go for a coffee with friends at the bar. I’m hoping it’ll be imaginable to go back to school desks, places of work and university,” she said.

    “I don’t ask a lot but I’m hoping for this.”

(By Alex Fraser, Emily Roe and Phillip Pullella)

NAIROBI, KENYA

Kenyan teenager Jackline Bosibori wore baggy sweatshirts to hide her pregnancy from her mother so long as she could, reluctant to add to her circle of relatives’s troubles.

    “Whether I used to be in school, I could have not been pregnant,” the 17-year-old said.

    For Bosibori, who gave birth in November, school closures defined 2020. Many Kenyan advocacy groups fear adolescent pregnancies increased as girls were forced to stay home while parents still went to work.

    The father of her little girl – an adult – has have shyed away from Bosibori’s circle of relatives since learning of the pregnancy. Kenya’s president in July ordered an investigation into rising reports of sexual abuse, including statutory rape, amidst the lockdown.

    For Bosibori, school closures have made her dream of changing into a lawyer seem far absent.

    “I feel I have not progressed in any way this year,” laments Bosibori. “Whether I used to be in school, I could have improved in my goals.”

    The situation makes her anxious, she said from the one-room home where she lives with six other members of the family.

    “There are people who missing jobs. There are students who will not go back to school; they’ve stayed out for a very long time and have adapted to being at home,” Bosibori explained as she took a break from studying while her baby slept.

    Kenyan schools have been shut since March. Bosibori wants to go back when they reopen in January, but she worries approximately the fees.

    “My mom missing her job … at the moment, we don’t have rent,” she said. “I am stressed.” 

    “2020 was once a poor year to me and it was once a good year to me,” Bosibori said. “It was once a poor year to me because I got pregnant impulsively.”

    “But it was once a good year to me because I delivered my baby and she is OK.” 

(By Ayenat Mersie, Monicah Mwangi and Jackson Njehia)

CHEONAN, SOUTH KOREA

Lee Ga-hyeon has a big wish for 2021 – to in spite of everything escape her bedroom in a city approximately 100 km (60 miles) from Seoul and see her pop idols BTS in person at a live event.

    “BTS is sort of a vitamin for me, but the coronavirus took it from me which made me in reality angry,” said 17-year-old Lee, in her room adorned with BTS photographs, lookalike dolls and a blanket with band member Jin’s face on it.

    The pandemic forced BTS to cancel a world tour in 2020 that would have taken the seven-member band through Asia, Europe and the US, and its New Year’s Eve concert will be online.

    For Lee, there were no more trips to Seoul to see concerts and hang out with friends, and instead life has gone in large part online, where South Korea’s hyper-connectivity helped her host a YouTube channel showcasing BTS events from the past three years.

    “It’s very sad that this room is the only place where I will meet BTS,” she said.

    While the country had early successes fighting the pandemic, the third and strongest wave of infections has forced pop fans to embrace the digital world in this “missing year.”

School may be online, making things even tougher for those preparing for the yearly university entrance exam, a rite of passage seen as a life-defining event in South Korea.

    Lee hopes the test will be held on time next year, free of the coronavirus. It was once delayed by a month in 2020 when almost half a million candidates sat for the eight-hour exam wearing face masks at desks divided by screens.

    It was once a year that reminded her how special it was once to have friends despite the fact that they remained apart. But it left her hoping that the new year will allow her to pursue her dream of studying mass communications and law at university.

    “Final year I spent a large number of time chatting with friends face-to-face on break time and lunch time, but I couldn’t do it at all this year,” said Lee. “I in spite of everything realized how precious that time was once.”

(By Minwoo Park and Daewoung Kim)

MCFARLAND, CALIFORNIA

Valeria Murguia was once finishing her junior year at California State University, Fresno, studying communications and working part time at the campus health centre when the pandemic hit.

Unexpectedly, classes went online and her modest income from crafting social media messages to help students stay healthy evaporated. Living in Fresno, a fast-growing city where housing costs were rising, became too expensive, so inside a couple of weeks Murguia found herself back home with her parents in the small farming town of McFarland.

Like many college-age adults in the US, Murguia’s young life took a sombre turn as the pandemic raged on. She and her friends started taking their health more seriously, working harder at part-time jobs or on homework, and being more open to serious personal relationships.

At home, Murguia concentrated on schoolwork, and on skills she would need after commencement: she learned how to build websites, improved her graphic design proficiency and studied event planning. She also worked with her parents, both immigrants from Mexico, picking grapes in California’s Central Valley vineyards.

“It made people more serious,” she said of the pandemic, “not so loosey-goosey … It’s going to for certain leave a mark on our generation.”

Murguia, now 21, will graduate in May into a tight job market. While the advertising commerce missing reasonably fewer jobs than most other sectors, it has shown effectively no job growth since wider employment began recovering in May. And, employment in the civic and social organizations industry remains 30% below what it was once in February.

She has no student debt, so will not bear that burden, alternatively. And economists are increasingly more optimistic approximately the outlook for 2021 and beyond, thanks to the rollout of vaccines for COVID-19. Still, the job market that awaits Murguia and others like her is nothing find it irresistible was once before the pandemic, when the lowest unemployment rate in half a century meant many graduates had their pick of jobs.

Even so, Murguia is optimistic approximately her post-pandemic future.

“I’m in reality staying positive, because whether I start having a look at the negative things, I just start playing games in my head,” she said. “And I don’t need to end in that space.”

(By Sandra Stojanovic, Jane Ross, Sharon Bernstein and Daniel Burns.)

WUHAN, CHINA

Xiong Feng, a 22-year-old graduate, teaches Wuhan’s only class in Voguing, a highly stylized dance form popularised in U.S. homosexual and transgender communities in the late 1980s.

Wuhan’s surprise 76-day lockdown, which cut the city off from the remainder of China overnight on Jan. 23, began long before other countries began to feel the pain of the pandemic.

Xiong, like many other Gen Z people in Wuhan, saw his life, education and commerce thrown into turmoil. The pandemic meant he was once unable to graduate alongside his classmates, and lockdown meant he missing the possibility to form tight friendships at a formative time in his life.

“I think I’ve missing some friends. The relationship faded absent because we didn’t get in touch with every other right through the epidemic,” he said.

The city has now in large part returned to normal though, after strict controls meant it has not reported a case since May.

For Wuhan’s Gen Z, the economic outlook is possibly better than for some of their peers out of the country, as businesses and offices have reopened and China is set to grow to be the only major economy to grow in 2021.

Native businesses in Wuhan this month told Reuters that the crowds were slowly but surely coming back, and young people – cooped up for months – were having a look to spend more on hobbies and social experiences.

For those like Xiong embarking on a first solo commerce, the post-pandemic flurry has helped attract new customers. For others, including Chinese who study out of the country, the pandemic has proved difficult despite China’s comparatively strong keep an eye on over the disease.

Taking a look forward, Xiong hopes he can still be a trailblazer in the city’s growing LGBT dance scene in 2021. His Voguing class has attracted more students since the lockdown was once lifted, as people emphasise way of life and leisure.

“I’m hoping I will establish the first (ballroom event for Vogue dancing) in Wuhan in my spare time. Because I see cities in China like Shanghai and Chengdu have developed a very good ballroom culture, and I consider Wuhan can do it too.” 

As the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wuhan suffered deep trauma right through the first quarter of 2020, locals agree. But Xiong says the experience has yielded important lessons for young people in China and elsewhere.

“I think the world must have more peace and love, and people must not be fighting against every other anymore,” he said.

(By Sun Cong and Cate Cadell)

DIEPKLOOF TOWNSHIP, SOUTH AFRICA

When South African fencer Nomvula Mbatha finished top in a national women’s sabre competition in 2019, she seemed set for the Olympics via the African Championships in Egypt, scheduled for April 2020.

    Then COVID-19 hit. All competition was once suspended and a strict lockdown at the end of March seriously curbed training for the 23-year-old and her team.

“The pandemic has been disastrous for us,” said Mbatha at her home in the Diepkloof township, southwest of Johannesburg. “We basically didn’t get to achieve anything. This year was once cancelled in our lives.”

    Even when competition resumed, Mbatha, ranked number one with 17 gold medals, faced huge difficulties raising underwriting to attend the international events that would safe her a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, postponed to 2021.

A member of the Soweto Fencing Club, she is just some of the country’s next generation of star athletes struggling to bring cash to compete in an economy hit by low growth and high unemployment, particularly for young people.

Between July and September, unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds rose to 61.3% from 52.3% in the preceding three months, according to Statistics South Africa.

    As officials look to programmes that can stimulate employment, Mbatha’s focus is on the next African Championships. Once again, though, the pandemic looms. A recent spike in infections has prompted new restrictions.

“What whether we go back to lockdown?” she said. “I don’t have a resolution for 2021 … I don’t have anything because I am scared.”

(By Nqobile Dludla, Shafiek Tassiem and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo)

PARIS, FRANCE

    Alone in a tiny studio apartment in Paris, unable to leave the country to see her boyfriend, bring to a halt from friends, and uncertain approximately her future, Solene Tissot felt the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic building up within her.

“You quickly find yourself overwhelmed by all this. You quickly feel suffocated,” said the 19-year-old.

Tissot, who moved to Paris two years ago to study at the Sciences-Po university, is now seeing a psychologist.

    She has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder, conditions she says were triggered by the loneliness brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns.

    Such restrictions have taken a toll on the mental health of vinaigrette youth. Between September and November this year, when a fresh lockdown was once imposed in France, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds with depression went up to 21% from 11%, according to the vinaigrette public health authority.

    Tissot no longer attends lectures in person because her university has cancelled them. Movement restrictions regularly make it illegal for her to visit friends at home.

    She has not seen her grandparents in a year. Her class lesson requires her to do an internship. But with many firms operating remotely, she is struggling to find somewhere to take her.

    Next year, she was once because of do a study year in Lebanon – where her boyfriend lives – but it’s unclear whether shuttle restrictions will allow it.

    Once she graduates, finding work will be harder as a result of COVID-19. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 22% of vinaigrette people aged 15 to 24 were neither in work nor education in the third quarter of this year, up from 19% the year before.

    Tissot though, is having a look to the future. She is learning Arabic, in preparation for the go back and forth to Lebanon she hopes will go ahead.

    “What I’m hoping for may be that we will be able to go back to a life that is a little more normal, and that means with the ability to see friends without it being unlawful to go to their place,” she said.

    “It’s true that 2020 didn’t leave much room for good cheer,

and I wish to have that again.”

(By Yiming Woo, Maxime Lahuppe and Christian Lowe)

CAIRO, EGYPT

Abdullah El-Berry, a 22-year-old trainee sports journalist, entered 2020 thinking life would be hard. A severe knee injury needed day-to-day physiotherapy and seriously affected his three-hour go back and forth to Cairo from his home in the Delta city of Shebine al-Qanatir.

After the pandemic hit, he could not continue physiotherapy as Egypt’s hospitals were overrun with patients. He could not present his commencement project or attend his long-awaited commencement ceremony. The suspension of sports made it close not possible to do his job. And his day-to-day go back and forth was once thrown in disarray by night curfews.

Now, he believes 2021 will be even tougher. Paid very little as a trainee at a state-owned newspaper, the young graduate worries he’ll struggle to find a proper job.

“We already suffer to find a job,” he said. “Now, many of us missing their jobs because of coronavirus and the economic crisis. It is going to definitely affect us all.”

Egypt’s population has been growing fast and just over half of its 102 million people are under 25, according to U.N. data.

Unemployment is high among young people, women and graduates. In the first quarter of 2020, the jobless rate for those aged 15-19 stood at 19.7% and for those aged 20-24 at 13.9%, against an overall rate of 7.7%, according to statistics agency CAPMAS. For women aged 20-24 and graduates it was once nearly 50%.

Having survived years of hard economic reforms and austerity measures, many Egyptians are unsure how to weather the coronavirus storm. Lockdowns have paralysed tourism and other imperative sectors, hitting the economy tough and cutting growth forecasts.

Berry believes social distancing and wearing masks will continue to keep an eye on lives in 2021, and make young people of his generation less likely to shuttle and explore new opportunities.

His wishlist for 2021 includes advancing his career and resuming work on a YouTube channel he deserted because of his studies and coronavirus.

(By Ahmed Fahmy, Mai Shams El-Din and Aidan Lewis)

MOSCOW, RUSSIA

In early 2020, Galina Akselrod-Golikova, 23, was once preparing to shuttle from Moscow to Italy for a marketing and PR job at the Venice biennale’s Russian pavilion. She couldn’t wait to begin.

    The dream never happened: the whole event was once postponed, the job disappeared and, instead of travelling out of the country, she ended up lonely from her family and friends in an apartment in Moscow as a hard lockdown suddenly began in April.

    The shock upset her deeply. She fretted such a lot that she developed stress-induced health issues. In time though, she said she was once relieved to have a chance to refocus her life and have time to think.

    She said she slowed down for the first time and put her energy into decorating the apartment where she lives with her boyfriend with stylish ornaments, antique furniture and flower arrangements.

    “This year was once the first time I started to devote such a lot time to my home, to shopping for some little things, and to stay there and to take into consideration my space and to express myself through it,” she said.

    She has not rushed to receive a new job, and with time to mirror she has realised that she wants to enrol for a masters degree in food studies in Rome next year. 

    Russia has resisted a second lockdown to be able to soften the economic blow of the pandemic. Unemployment right through the health crisis peaked at 6.4% in August, with young people making up 22% of that complete.

    Despite the upheaval, Akselrod-Golikova believes that the pandemic has brought many positive things into her life, though she acknowledges it was once easier for younger people to adjust quickly.

    “I’ve started to appreciate my time as a resource and to devote it to my circle of relatives, to my friends and to spend more time with them, including getting to realize my parents and friends in new ways,” she said.

(By Lev Sergeev, Maxim Shemetov, Maria Vasilyeva, Rinat Sagdiev and Tom Balmforth)

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

Joao Vitor Cavalcante, 19, had trained tough during 2019 for his budding career as a professional cyclist. He thought 2020 would be his best year so far.

    But the pandemic upended that dream, prompting him to take a job at a car repair shop and surrender his plans for a career in cycling.

    “Cycling isn’t easy, it is merciless, despite the fact that I enjoyed that cruelty,” Cavalcante told Reuters. “Now I don’t need to live off of that anymore. Instead I need to live to do it.”

    Cavalcante is one of millions of Brazilian Gen Zs who have had to drastically adjust their aspirations because of the pandemic’s effect on the economy.

    According to a survey financed by several Brazilian nonprofits, approximately 23% of Brazilians aged between 15 and 29 looked for new ways to make up missing income right through the pandemic. Approximately 60% signed up for emergency government payments, which handed out more than half of Brazil’s minimum wage to any citizen without a formal job.

    For Cavalcante, there was once no other option. His parents were forced to close down the circle of relatives clothing store right through the first few months of the pandemic and his sponsor left him when cycling competitions were cancelled.

    His uncle, aware of the economic constraints, asked him to work at his car repair shop.

    “He was once my salvation,” Cavalcante said. “Either I took that job or I would be working for nothing. Final year, I sort of had a future (in cycling), but that time has passed.”

    Cavalcante now works eight hours a day repairing cars, despite the fact that he says he dislikes washing soiled auto parts. But this can be a job that helped enhance his circle of relatives right through a rough time.

    He wants to compete again in 2021, but only as an amateur.

    “For 2021, I’m hoping that things return to normal and that people can see their family and friends again and that they value their affection,” he said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )

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