COVID-19: poorest young people in developing countries hit by deepening inequalities and falling well-being.

Submitted by remote on Sun, 11/22/2020 - 19:20

News Release: embargoed to 00.01 23rd November. 

Poverty and gender significantly affect how the coronavirus pandemic impacts young people in developing countries, deepening inequalities, and diminishing well-being according to new Oxford-led research, out today. 

News Release. COVID-19: poorest young people in developing countries hit by deepening inequalities and falling well-being.

Submitted by remote on Sun, 11/22/2020 - 19:20

News Release: embargoed to 00.01 23rd November. 

Poverty and gender significantly affect how the coronavirus pandemic impacts young people in developing countries, deepening inequalities, and diminishing well-being according to new Oxford-led research, out today. 

COVID-19: update on the pandemic in Young Lives study countries


COVID-19 continues to be a defining global event, with evolving and multifaceted economic and social impacts exacerbating existing inequalities. Next week, Young Lives publishes headline findings from our second (of three) Phone Survey calls into COVID-19’s impact on young people in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. To prepare for this our Country Directors offer an update on the pandemic’s impact on each of their countries, as well as the evolving response from their respective governments.

The trajectory of COVID-19 cases


The epidemic has grown exponentially, with India ranked second across the world with over 8.9 million recorded cases across the country. There have been over 131,075 associated deaths but cases and deaths per million of the population is lower than other parts of the world, with a rate of 6,440 and 95 for each.


The official figures place Peru in the top tier of the number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19, with over 35,000 deaths and a rate of 1.066 deaths per million people. But since September this number has been decreasing.


Vietnam has maintained its record as a successful model in the fight against COVID-19 and now stands at 141 active cases and a rate of 0.4 fatalities per million people. They are ranked 167th in the world and 7th out of 11 countries in the Southeast Asia region.


Ethiopia ranks 58th in the world and 4th in Africa with over 100,000 cases and 1,500 deaths. Whilst cases per million are less than one thousand (891) and deaths are only 14 per million, there are several thousand in almost all the regions, which suggests that COVID-19 is widespread despite still limited evidence through testing. There is a high proportion of asymptomatic and mild cases.

The continuing impact and Government responses


Having gone into nationwide lockdown at the end of March 2020, India stayed in this for 75 days, with only essential services allowed and educational institutions, flights, hospitality services and large gatherings of any kind prohibited. Various restrictions were relaxed from June 8th 2020 and the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India)’ stimulus package was announced in May. The $23 billion Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PM-GKY) relief package is targeted at the poor and vulnerable but has received some criticism, as it reallocates funding across existing budgets.

The pandemic has had a disastrous effect on the economy with the estimated GDP decline of nine per cent between April and June 2020. The unemployment rate rose to 23.5 per cent in April but has fallen to 6.7 per cent in September 2020. In Andhra Pradesh the unemployment rate was 6.4 per cent, while in Telangana it was 3.3 per cent in September 2020 (Centre of Monitoring Indian Economy, 2020).

A critical impact for young people in India has been the shutting down of educational institutions and there exists a huge digital divide which has excluded vulnerable populations of students with limited internet facilities at home. State educational institutes are attempting to upgrade infrastructure and teachers’ pedagogical skills to provide effective online education but there remains much work to be done. With the closure of schools learners have lost the opportunity for physical, affective and psychological development.


Peru instituted a national lockdown on 15th March 2020, with the economy gradually reopening since May with continued restrictions on the movement of people. At the start of October the country entered phase 4 of economic reactivation, which allows for the reopening of most businesses with a health plan (that they will have submitted to the Ministry of Health) in place. Limited capacity has been placed on restaurants and tourist sites, whilst a curfew is in place between 11pm and 4am, with restricted movement on Sundays. Masks are mandatory in public places and schools and universities continue to teach remotely.

There has been a near 40 per cent increase in unemployment and over 30 per cent decrease in GDP in the second quarter of 2020. One of the outcomes of the lockdown is that vaccine campaigns were not held and there have been diphtheria-related deaths for the first time in over 20 years.

Peru is in the midst of political upheavel after the removal of president Martín Vizcarra and the installation of the head of Congress, Manuel Merino.


A second wave of community transmission leading to a surge of infections in the summer, led to the implementation of local lockdowns in Da Nang as well as major tourist destinations, Quang Nam and Hai Duong. These were relaxed in the middle of September and as it stands the total number of cases in Vietnam have been 1,180 with a death toll of 35.

Vietnam’s success in responding to COVID-19 means that, while social distancing measure remain, all in-country economic activities have resumed, including domestic flights and tourism. The economy shows signs of widespread recovery with a GDP increase in the third quarter of over 2.6 per cent year-on-year and an under-employment rate that stands at 2.79 per cent. But the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, with real incomes 7.2 per cent and 4.9 per cent lower year-on-year for the 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2020.


Ethiopia is currently relaxing some of the measures introduced to respond to the virus, with the removal of restrictions on transport and the gradual re-opening of educational institutions. While no lockdown has been imposed in Ethiopia, there remain regulations including wearing masks in public, washing hands before entering buildings and not shaking hands. While there has been relatively good compliance in urban areas, the low rate of deaths and high asymptomatic cases has seen an increase in complacency and risky behaviours (such as during holidays, weddings and funerals).

COVID-19 effects have impacted the poor and more marginalized due to an economic slow down that has led to increased unemployment and exacerbated inequalities. But other hazards and shocks have sometimes eclipsed COVID, such as the September floods, which displaced 300,000, and locust swarms, that have impacted this year’s harvest and will likely lead to food insecurity, and most recently the outbreak of fighting between the federal government and the Tigray region.

Looking ahead

Renu Singh – Country Director, India

‘COVID-19 has multi-faceted implications on the health and well-being of individuals as well as for the economy in general. India, with a population of 1·4 billion and rampant poverty faces high risk of potential infections as well as loss of livelihoods for the most vulnerable populations as a result of the pandemic.’

Santiago Cueto – Country Director, Peru

'The presidential and congress campaigns for the elections in 2021 have started. We are hopeful that the impacts triggered by the virus will be tackled with specific measures on how to recover the path to social and economic growth that Peru was experiencing before the pandemic.'

Alula Pankhurst – Country Director, Ethiopia

‘It is important to stress that the COVID impacts have no doubt been worse among the poor and more marginalized, especially those relying on informal work, wage labour and factory work, as well as own account income generation which has been detrimentally affected by the economic slow down, and on which many of the Young Lives youth depend.’

Nguyen Thang, Country Director, Vietnam

‘Building on the success in COVID-19 control, the Government of Vietnam has recently rebalanced the focus of its policies towards economic concerns, after the local lockdowns were lifted in the middle of September 2020.’

Headline reports from the Second Call of Young Lives at Work’s Phone Call Survey in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam will be published on 23rd November. Young Lives At Work (YLAW) is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. For more on YLAW, please see our webpage here or follow us on Twitter @yloxford, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Photo credit: © Young Lives / Mulugeta Gebrekidan. The images throughout our publications are of children living in circumstances and communities similar to the children within our study sample.

All COVID-19 figures are accurate as of November 18th 2020 and are sourced from here.

Young Lives at Work Consultation Guide

Poverty and shocks
Technical notes

Listening to Young Lives at Work Covid-19 Phone Survey: First Call shows widening inequality

With the virtual fieldwork just completed on our second Covid-19 phone survey, we reflect on seven key findings from the first call that point to widening inequality. 

Young Lives at Work adapted to the coronavirus situation to implement a Covid-19 phone survey about the pandemic's short and medium term impacts. You can read more about Young Lives' response to the pandemic here and here. In June, we wrote about the design of the first call and what we were hoping to find out.  After virtual training in four countries, seven weeks of on-line fieldwork, almost 40,000 phone calls, data cleaning, coding, merging, and preliminary analysis, the headline reports of our first Covid-19 Phone survey were released in August and the data are available here.  In this blog we share our approach to the first call and key findings. 

We interviewed a total of 9,541 individuals in the Older and Younger Cohorts, reaching almost 91% of those who we were aiming to reach (see our attrition report here).  We discovered seven common findings, as well as key differences between the four countries, Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam (below). The crisis is impacting the poorest most severely and widening inequalities, with poorer people less able to protect themselves, get information, work from home or stay in education.

Seven Findings from the Young Lives at Work Covid-19 Phone Survey


1. Poverty and a lack of information has impacted people’s ability to take precautionary measures against Covid-19 infection, especially in Ethiopia.

2. The economic effects of lockdown policies have been more significant than the health impacts to date - although many households in Peru and India are likely to have been exposed to Covid-19.

3. Across all countries, except Vietnam, many young people are going hungry. Although government support is well targeted, it is not sufficient in Peru and Ethiopia.

4. Remote working has been the exception, not the rule. Job losses or suspension without pay are widespread, even in Vietnam, the least affected country.

5. Education of 19-year-olds, in all countries, has been severely disrupted while access to online learning has been highly unequal.

6. Caring responsibilities increased for 25-year-olds with the burden still tending to fall on young women most of all.

7. Levels of anxiety about the current situation are high, especially in India​.

Poverty and a lack of information impact people’s ability to take precautionary measures against Covid-19 infection

According to the WHO, the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are a dry cough, fever, and tiredness. Public information in each country has emphasized a list of symptoms which overlap with this but there are some differences (e.g. in Peru difficulty breathing is highlighted on the official government website). Most respondents were able to identify at least two of the symptoms, and those with internet access were most likely to be informed. 

We asked respondents about the five behaviours which are widely recommended as a means of preventing infection: social distancing, washing hands more frequently, avoiding handshakes or physical greetings, avoiding groups and wearing protective gear when outside. Only slightly more than half (56%) of the Ethiopia sample adhered to all five, rising to 69% in Vietnam, 72% in India and 84% in Peru. Those with internet access or residing in urban areas showed a higher degree of compliance with these measures, and overall, females tended to comply more than males. In Peru, social distancing is the behavior with the least adherence, especially among vulnerable households.

We also assessed the resources available in households to comply with the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations on self-isolation, through an adapted version of the Home Environment for Protection Index (HEP) developed by Brown et al., 2020. The HEP measures the ability to receive reliable information on virus protection and the presence of available space and facilities suitable for implementing social distancing within the household.  

Young Lives Households: Home Environment for Protection


Information/ communication device

2 or less people per room

Household toilet

Household piped water

HEP score all indices

























Notes: Proportion of households. Adapted from Brown et al, 2020. Detail on the Young Lives HEP index can be found here.

Peru and Vietnam have relatively high averages for the protective index, but in Ethiopia, under a third have access to a piped water source, and the number of people sharing a room also makes it difficult to implement self-isolation when someone is believed to be infected with Covid-19. We find that young people who are the most vulnerable, are living in households with lower protection. Households in the higher HEP group (who are wealthier, on average) are also more likely to follow all behaviours, relative to those in the lower HEP group. 

A cause for concern is the number of those employing ineffective (though benign) preventative measures. A large number reported eating garlic or ginger to protect themselves against the virus, as well as drinking lemon, or adding hot pepper to food to prevent infection.

So far, the health impact of the crisis has been higher in Peru and India than in Ethiopia and Vietnam. In both Peru and India, approximately 6% believed someone in their household had been infected. In contrast, this figure was fewer than 1% in Ethiopia, and almost zero in Vietnam. Whilst our sample are not representative of the national populations, the rates do reflect the situation in each country. Of those who were believed to be infected in Peru and India, only around one-in-three were tested for the virus in both countries.

Many young people are going hungry in all countries except Vietnam: although government support is well targeted it is not sufficient in Peru and Ethiopia. 

The crisis has impacted food security in Vietnam notably less than in the other countries. One in six Young Lives households in Peru, India, and Ethiopia reported running out of food at some point since the beginning of the crisis. This percentage was even larger among households that faced food shortages (food insecurity) in our last visit in 2016 (about twice as high in India). In Vietnam, the overall proportion was much lower, at 4%.

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Source: Young Lives COVID-19 phone survey. We defined food insecure households as those reporting “sometimes do not eat enough” or “frequently do not eat enough” and food secure households those reporting “eating enough but not always what they would like” or “eat enough of what we want”.

Government assistance has reached our respondents to very different degrees. About 92% of the households in India received at least one form of support from the government during the lockdown, although in many cases the support consists of a small basket of food or face masks.  This compares to around half of those in Peru, falling to just 6% in Ethiopia. In all countries it was relatively well targeted, reaching proportionately more of those households that reported food insecurity in a previous visit. However, in Peru the proportion of the most vulnerable households that received a direct cash transfer was far from universal. This could signal either a targeting problem, a delay in payments, or both. Moreover, the size of the transfer appears insufficient (as its value corresponds to about 82% of a minimum wage per family for the entire period).  

Job losses or suspension without pay are widespread even in Vietnam, the least affected country, and remote working is the exception rather than the rule

Many of our 25-year-old respondents lost their jobs. This was particularly severe for respondents who had been informal workers with no written contract in our last visit. In Peru and India, 7 out of 10 respondents had reduced or lost their source of income due to lockdown, 6 in 10 in Vietnam, and 4 in 10 in Ethiopia.  A concentration of income losses among those in the informal sector is an indication of this group’s additional vulnerability to the economic consequences associated with the pandemic. However, it is important to state that everyone, even those who were formal workers prior to the crisis, was severely affected.

The proportion of those who lost income or employment was also relatively higher in urban areas compared to rural areas and a higher proportion of males experienced these losses in both locations. 

Remote working has been possible only for a lucky minority of 25-year-old workers living in urban areas. The highest proportion (28%) in India were able to work from home during the outbreak, falling to 20% in Vietnam, 18% in Ethiopia and 17% in Peru. The percentage is much higher within households who are better equipped for protective measures against Coronavirus (High-HEP). Presumably, this is due to the availability of better infrastructure (e.g. access to internet, computer ownership) and the nature of the work activities performed. 

Education of 19-year olds in all countries has been severely disrupted and access to online learning has been highly unequal

With schools and universities closed very early on in the outbreak in all countries, the interruption to education was striking. Inequalities in those whose studies were interrupted are clear both across countries, gender and wealth. Access to study from home was slightly higher for females than males in all countries, and wealth and parental education almost doubled the chances of being able to study at home. In Vietnam, the vast majority of our 19-year-old cohort (almost 90%) accessed remote learning, falling to 70% in Peru, and 38% in India. In contrast, only 28% in Ethiopia continued to learn remotely, this fell to 14% if their parents had no education. 

This echoes the findings of another Young Lives study that interviewed headteachers in Ethiopia and India, see here for more information

Caring responsibilities increased for 25-year olds and the burden still tends to fall on young women

Although slightly more 19 year-old women have been able to continue their studies online, wide disparities are clear when looking at caring. In all countries except Peru, more than double the number of young women, relative to young men, have had to take on extra caring responsibilities during the lockdown.  The disparity is particularly striking in India and Ethiopia.

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Source: Young Lives COVID-19 phone survey.

Levels of anxiety about the current situation are high, especially in India

How is this impacting on young people’s stress levels? We asked respondents whether the statement "I am nervous when I think about current circumstances" applies to them. We found that stress levels are worryingly high – in India more than 90% of all the young people indicated it applied or strongly applied to them. In Vietnam and Ethiopia 65% agreed with these statements. Peru had surprisingly the lowest anxiety levels, with just under 50% feeling nervous. In the second call we have asked more detailed questions about mental health based on validated scales.

What happens next? 

The data are available on open access (see here).  Due to the nature of the confidentiality agreement that Young Lives has with the families, the datasets are anonymized, and information on geographical location is limited. 

The second call fieldwork has now been completed. We will release headline findings in November. This second phone call has gone into more depth about young people’s labour market experiences, to understanding the medium-term impacts of the pandemic on their work life, their home life, and their education. More specifically, it contains information on the household socio-economic status, food security, labour, education, time use, health (including mental health) - the main themes of the YL survey that can be implemented over the phone.

This is a longer version of our blog first published in The Conversation in August, here.  Follow us on Twitter @yloxford for news on Young LIves at Work. 


Preliminary findings: First call Listening to Young Lives Work in Ethiopia phone survey

Submitted by alula on Wed, 08/12/2020 - 09:26

Since the first case of COVID-19 in Ethiopia was confirmed on the 13th of March 2020, the number of cases has increased steadily. Despite the fact that the government is taking proactive measures to reduce the negative consequence of COVID-19 the pandemic is causing multiple and varying impacts across society.

COVID-19 in Ethiopia: trends, measures and socio-economic impacts

Submitted by alula on Wed, 08/12/2020 - 08:32

COVID-19 has affected the whole world even if not equally.  Ethiopia is experiencing the negative impacts of COVID-19 but cases so far are much lower than had been projected. However the measures being taken to prevent COVID-19 have significantly impacted the economic and social life of people in Ethiopia.

Listening to Young Lives at Work in Ethiopia: First Call

Poverty and inequality
Poverty and shocks
Country report

This brief report provides a first look into the data collected during the first of three calls in Young Lives at Work's Phone Survey in Ethiopia and presents some of the key findings.x

It incudes a snapshot of the recent situation in the country.  The findings found that the majority of the respondents were aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, but compliance with all recommended behaviours for protection was low. Income and employment losses due to the virus outbreak were relatively higher among the informal sector, in urban areas and among males. Moreover, education was entirely interrupted during the virus response and few children continue to learn remotely.

The Young Lives phone survey investigates the short/medium-term impact of COVID-19 on the health, well-being, employment and education trajectories of young people in our study. The Young Lives participants have been tracked since 2001 and are now aged 19 (Younger Cohort, YC) and 25 (Older Cohort, OC).

The second call has been piloted and the fieldwork will take place between August-October 2020.

Additional statistics and summary tables from the first phone survey can be found here.