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Mortgaged futures: fractured livelihoods and youth debts during COVID-19

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McCarthy, G 
Osborne, H 
Pratiwi, AM 


The social and economic impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating for many, and collectively young people generally fared worse than older adults, with the impact amongst young people also being highly uneven. Most studies on this topic focus on Global North contexts, with experiences in the Global South being less well understood. Focusing on young people in Nepal and Indonesia who were especially exposed to the fallout from the pandemic (in part due to their occupations), this paper analyzes over 1400 weekly diary entries from 100 respondents written across four months in the first half of 2021. Participants recall increasingly precarious individual and family situations due to pandemic-related livelihood upheavals and insufficient access to social protection. Amongst diverse ‘coping strategies’, many turned to debt to smooth fluctuating incomes–leading to both financial and social obligations and forcing sometimes life-altering decisions such as leaving education and moving into risky work. Spiralling indebtedness may have consequences for livelihoods across young people’s life-courses; with futures mortgaged to survive precarity at the peak of the Delta wave of COVID-19. Looking ahead, policy makers should reconfigure disaster responses and social protection with a youth-lens to ensure a robust, fair and sustainable recovery from future crises, mitigating inter-generational scarring effects.



4404 Development Studies, 44 Human Society, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Social Determinants of Health, Coronaviruses Disparities and At-Risk Populations, Coronaviruses, Infectious Diseases

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Journal of Youth Studies

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Informa UK Limited