Mr. Chair, this year’s ECOSOC Youth Forum happens at a crucial point wherein many nations continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic while charting the course towards recovery.
Indeed, this pandemic will have far-reaching effects in our lives, our society and the global community. But it has also presented us with an opportunity to rethink our ways, and to make development truly more sustainable and inclusive. If we really intend to pursue a more vibrant and healthy future, then we must bid goodbye to the ‘business as usual’ philosophy. There is much work to be done and investing on young people as partners for recovery is an important one.
The pandemic is severely impacting several industries and employment opportunities. It has also exposed the precarious situation of many youth working in the informal economy, and underscored the need for well-functioning social protection systems. In February 2021, the Philippines recorded an 8.8 percent unemployment rate equivalent to 4.2 million people who are unemployed. This demands for economic empowerment, job creation and at the same time fostering entrepreneurship.
The Philippine government recognizes the youth as a key driver of food security and resilience. Thus, the government is relentlessly supporting students and young agripreneurs to start their agri-fishery enterprise through the Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (KAYA) Program, which offers a non-collateral loan worth P300,000 to P500,000, payable in five years at zero interest. Once their loans and proposals are approved, they will be mentored by experts from partner state universities, NGOs, and the private sector.
COVID-19 is advancing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This may bring about difficult challenges to the future of work. The ILO estimates that by 2030, the global labor force will increase by 428 million workers, majority of these will be in low and middle income countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. About three in five jobs in Southeast Asian countries face a “high risk of automation”. Further reskilling and upskilling of the youth is urgently needed. Despite the pandemic, the Philippine government continues to make technical education more accessible by offering free online courses and other skills development services to a broader audience at a lesser cost.
As COVID-19 accelerates the adoption of a global digital culture, digital inequalities continue to challenge young people in developing countries in terms of remote working and online learning. This necessitates enhancing digital literacy and upgrading the infrastructure ensuring that internet connectivity is made available and affordable to all citizens.
The pandemic has affected our daily life and mental health, especially among young women and girls. It has been a health issue prior to COVID-19, but it was exacerbated by limited mobility and physical interaction due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus. UNICEF reports that one in seven children and young people “has lived under stay-at-home policies for most of the last year”. This urges greater investment in mental health services.
The world’s 1.2 billion youth is a vital force for global recovery. There is a strong potential in each and every single youth just waiting to be unlocked. We need to equip them with proper skills, involve their active participation, and provide them a platform where they can make their voices heard.
The Philippines has consistently advocated for a truly meaningful youth participation in drawing policies, plans and programs on important issues such as climate action, disaster risk reduction and environmental protection, for we believe that young people should be involved at all levels of discussion. Over the past years and during this pandemic, the National Youth Commission-Philippines has been working closely with our registered youth organizations and youth council officials from across the 42,000 barangays of the country towards engaging youth participation in the communities. Credible policy-making process about the youth should be done for and with the youth.
Mr. Chair, we call on all governments to include young people in their respective post-pandemic recovery agenda. I also call on my fellow youth to continue their activism as we navigate this decade of action for sustainable development.
Thank you very much.