Which generation is affected the most by the corona crisis?

NPO Radio 1

In an interview on NPO Radio 1, Robert Dur, Professor of Economics of Incentives and Performances at Erasmus School of Economics, talks about the consequences of the current pandemic for the different generations.

If you want to enter the labour market in the short term, it doesn't look promising, says Dur. The number of vacancies is dwindling, jobs are at risk, and entering the labour market is a lot more difficult than it used to be. Before the crisis, the Netherlands had a mobile and fast labour market. Permanent contracts were rare and changing jobs easily and frequently seemed to be the standard. If you now have a permanent job in a sector that doesn't suffer the hardest hits, you can consider yourself a winner, says Robert Dur. People without a job or with a flexible contract have it a lot harder.

A disadvantage in the labour market

Especially the younger generation, just graduated and looking for a job, seems to be worried about the future. In order to make a statement about a possible disadvantage this generation may be suffering as a result of the crisis, Dur makes a comparison with young people who have experienced a crisis in the past. Several moments in history can be identified where the cohorts can be compared to moments where things went well on the labour market. According to Dur, the first couple of years of the crisis are difficult, but after five years or so, the differences become less apparent. The gaps are more smooth over time, says Dur.

Of all times

The current generation appears not to be so unique. According to Dur, every generation, or at least part of it, is confronted with a crisis the moment they enter the labour market. The millennials were struggling with the financial crisis, Generation X entered the labour market in the early 80s at a time of high unemployment and even the late baby boomers were confronted with the oil crisis in the early 70s. Within every generation there is bad luck and fortune, says Dur.

Investing in human capital

The corona crisis also has a relatively positive side. Looking at the past, it can be seen that during a crisis, people tend to study longer, says Dur. He sees this among his own students as well, who are suddenly not in a hurry to graduate, now that the jobs are no longer plentily available. They often take extra courses with a clear future perspective, such as econometrics or data science. But it's more than that, says Dur. MBO and HBO students are also more likely to opt for an additional programme due to the poor state of the labour market. In addition, it turns out that someone who enters the labour market in times of recession achieves more satisfaction in the course of his career. The demands and expectations are lower, he says. 

More information

Listen to the complete interview on NPO Radio 1 here, 10 May 2020 (in Dutch).