Young Lives Headline Findings COVID-19 Phone Survey Second Call

Boy selling mask

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

Poverty and gender significantly affect how the coronavirus pandemic impacts young people in developing countries, deepening inequalities, and diminishing well-being.

New research, published by Young Lives, shows that rising food prices, increased household expenses, falling incomes, interrupted education, and shifting job patterns are typically impacting young people living in rural areas and in the poorest households most, with families turning to more traditional gender roles in times of stress and young people reporting high levels of anxiety and depression.

Young Lives has followed the lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India , Peru and Vietnam since 2001. Using an innovative new phone survey, Young Lives is continuing to follow these young people (now aged 19 and 26), to better understand how COVID-19 – and associated national policies – have impacted their lives.

 ‘Today’s findings are from the second of three calls in our phone survey.  COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in Ethiopia, India and Peru, but we found that young people are currently more affected by the economic and social impacts of the pandemic than from the virus itself, with young men and women in the poorest households typically hardest hitsaid leading author Dr Marta Favara, Deputy Director, Young Lives.

Headline Findings in Ethiopia:

Income and expenses

The social and economic consequences of the pandemic have overshadowed health concerns for Young Lives households. Most young people said their incomes had fallen, whilst food prices and household expenses have risen: 50 %of the households experienced a loss of income and 70 percent increases in expenses including higher prices of food and farming supplies in rural areas, exacerbated by increasing inflation.


Despite education being interrupted for the vast majority of respondents, most are hoping to return to the classroom: About 78 % of the Younger Cohort who were still enrolled in education, or were enrolled at some point in 2020, were attending or planning to attend classes in the near future, while 21 per cent were registered and were waiting for classes to resume.

There is a digital divide impacting access to education that disadvantages students with no or limited internet facilities, most likely living in rural areas, in the poorest households and whose parents are less educated: less than 5% of students had been able to access on-line learning during the national lockdown (0% of students living in rural households).

Jobs and employment trends

Since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, there appears to have been some recovery of job losses, particularly in rural areas and for the Younger Cohort. However, a shift towards agriculture from other sectors (from 35% to 46%) and an increase in self-employment (from 57% to 63%) suggests young people are going back to the family farm as a form of self-insurance.

Mental Health Issues

Self-reported sense of well-being showed a marked decrease, particularly for the Younger Cohort aged 19 now, compared to similar measurements of well-being for the Older Cohort when they were aged 19. Around 20% of the respondents reported symptoms that would indicate at least mild anxiety, and similar proportions for depression.

Burden of household work

Young women have continued to bear the brunt of increased household and caring responsibilities at home: 70% of young women spent  increased time on household duties during lockdown compared to only 26% of young men; whilst 46% young women undertook increased childcare compared to 19% young men.


Young Lives is currently conducting a third call in this phone survey and will report further on these emerging trends in early 2021.

Young Lives at Work Phone Survey

  • Call 1 was conducted between June and July 2020; findings available on
  • Call 2 was conducted between August and October 2020.
  • Call 3, currently being conducted and due to be completed by early December 2020.