This needs to go beyond targeted initiatives to prevent mass youth unemployment. Rishi Sunak’s Kickstart Scheme, which will pay the wages of newly hired under-25s for six months, is a good start – but it’s not enough.
The economic cost will not just be borne by those struggling to find a job now, but by future generations of workers and taxpayers. Safeguarding them means ensuring the economy is dynamic enough to bounce back, rethinking regulation to allow businesses to adapt and entrepreneurs to find new areas for growth.
It also means keeping a constant eye out for ways to bring the spiralling debt under control. With the state pension forecast to increase by 7.6pc over the next two years – more than five times predicted earnings growth – it would be unconscionable not to rethink the triple lock. Struggling young workers have already put their financial well-being to one side to protect their elders; they should not now be forced to fund disproportionate pension rises too.
And despite calls to extend the furlough scheme, there is little justification for artificially preserving jobs that are simply unviable in a post-Covid world, not when it costs £14bn per month to do so.
Most fundamentally, though, the narrative needs to change. Young people are not reckless individualists who are risking public health with their self-serving ways. On the contrary, they have sacrificed everything – their social lives, their well-being, their future careers and financial security – to protect the nation from a virus which generally is not a danger to them. If this sacrifice is not widely acknowledged, it is because they have done so without question or complaint.
Generational responsibility should work both ways. Now is the time to recognise the price the young have already paid – and ensure they are not paying it for the rest of their lives.