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    The impact of Covid-19 on Young Workers: a Qualitative Longitudinal Study

    Christie, Fiona ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1384-3683 and Swingewood, Adele (2021) The impact of Covid-19 on Young Workers: a Qualitative Longitudinal Study. In: BSA Work, Employment and Society Conference 2021: Connectedness, Activism and Dignity at work in a Precarious Era, 25 August 2021 - 27 August 2021, Virtual.

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    This paper reports on the progress and early findings from a small-scale qualitative longitudinal project entitled ‘Young People and Work in and Age of Uncertainty’ which is funded by the British Academy. Existing economic and political uncertainties, growing inequalities, and the technological transformation of work are having far-reaching impacts on labour markets and work across nations. Despite international, national and local aspirations for decent work, there are fears that an erosion and degradation of work is occurring for many in society. In times of uncertainty, amplified by Covid-19, young people as new entrants to the labour market may be more at risk of precarious/insecure working conditions. Our longitudinal, qualitative project (Neale, 2018) explores the personal, social and economic consequences of uncertain and disrupted working conditions, and also considers how young people are responding to and resisting uncertainty. Theoretically, our study draws from the psychology of working theory (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016) and the principles of decent work (ILO, 2019). It adds to a burgeoning interest in insecure and precarious work (e.g., Work, Employment and Society, Special Issue, 2021). We use biographical interview methods (Merrill & West, 2009), and integrate anthropological social theory (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 1998), using detailed textual analysis to interrogate the interplay between structure and agency in participant reflections. Research interviews are being conducted in two waves (March and September 2021) and the study is based in Greater Manchester, targeting circa twenty young people (aged 18-30) who live and work in the city region. The research was conceived prior to the pandemic but its timing has led the research team to adapt our focus to the pandemic context. We are particularly interested in sectors that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, e.g., hospitality, retail and the arts. The timing of our research means that we are able to contribute original insights into young people’s experiences in extraordinary times. Findings from Wave 1 will be shared in this conference paper. Early indications are that the consequences of pandemic disruption are varied. Both negative and positive experiences emerge from participant narratives. Many of our participants have a liminal status in the labour market, neither marginal or traditional (Furlong et al., 2017) in their work conditions. We have observed disrupted, lives being put on hold and issues of wellbeing and mental health are important. We suspect that circumstances may change as we move into Wave 2.

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