What happened to unemployed young people during the pandemic?

Coca-Cola Hungary's #YouthEmpowered programme published new research on job-seeking youth

According to the most recent data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, although unemployment among the total population has fallen compared to last year, the indicators for young people have worsened. The pandemic has created a specific labour market situation in Hungary: many young people starting their careers and recent graduates are finding it difficult to find their place in the labour market, while at the same time many areas are facing significant labour shortages. This is supported by the latest research of Coca-Cola Hungary's #YouthEmpowered programme, conducted by Kantar Hoffmann, which revealed additional segments of young people in Hungary who are neither working nor studying. For them, the solution in many cases lies in self-development, retraining and skills development based on self-awareness: the programme's research has now also outlined how these can help different groups of unemployed young people.

Since 2017 #YouthEmpowered programme, which supports young people in finding their place on the labour market, has been organising free in-person and online workshops to support those who are not in education or employment by developing their skills. Since its launch, the programme has steadily expanded its target groups to include young people starting their careers, university students, secondary school students about to choose a career, disadvantaged Roma youth, mothers with young children, young entrepreneurs and young people living with disabilities as well.

The programme's research, conducted by Kantar Hoffmann, based on Eurostat data, has recently revealed three new segments of the so-called NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) youth aged 15-35 in Hungary: the pre-pandemic groups are now extended to include young people who have dropped out of the service sector, those returning from abroad and job seekers who are stuck in a job-seeking position due to the pandemic. The research has categorised the different NEET groups using a so-called "vulnerability net", on which a jobseeker's previous experience and motivation level determine their chances in the labour market. As the NEET group of young people is highly heterogeneous, the relevant help is different in each case. The new research has now simultaneously looked at how the existing target groups of the programme have been affected by the pandemic, as well as the new groups of NEET youth, and what might be the best help for them after the pandemic.

Young people excluded from the services sector

While the hospitality, transport and arts sectors were the worst affected by the pandemic, the number of people working in construction and education has increased. While some of the young people who have dropped out have been absorbed by sectors facing labour shortages, the rest of them are now part of the new job-seeking segment of the NEET group. On the other hand, #YouthEmpowered programme’s research also revealed that these young people were often working in the service sector out of necessity or lack of opportunity. For some of those interviewed, a fresh start after the epidemic could be a good opportunity to assess their skills and needs and get closer to the job that suits them best or to start to study in areas alongside a new job. For them #YouthEmpowered programme's workshops focusing on self-awareness and communication can be especially useful. During these, experts from partner organisations and training centres help participants to identify and develop their key skills and to use these at new areas of the labour market as well.

Young people returning from abroad

Although in many cases they lost their jobs overnight and decided to move home, young people returning from abroad are in the least vulnerable position. Their experience abroad is an asset at home, and on the other hand, they are no strangers to the experience of starting afresh and are often more willing to take up a new profession as well. The stories of people interviewed in the research also showed that many of them started to think about a career change or starting their own business after returning home. Regardless of their level of education, they can also benefit of those online learning materials offered by #YouthEmpowered programme, which put the focus on self-awareness and starting a new business. The programme's mentors, who are senior associates at Coca-Cola HBC Hungary can also provide them with relevant, up-to-date advice.

Unemployed fresh graduates

In terms of vulnerability, they are in the worst situation: trapped in long-term unemployment at a young age, they find it hard to get started. They have to find work in a tight labour market, in a highly competitive environment, and they are also disadvantaged by a lack of experience. Prolonged periods of job-seeking, isolation and insecurity further increase the chances of losing motivation. A further disadvantage may be that the epidemic has also limited career guidance services. For them, the online workshops of #YouthEmpowered programme can be particularly helpful, as the programme’s trainers can help them prepare and get started and share questions and experiences with others in similar shoes.

Over the past 4 years, #YouthEmpowered programme has helped over 10,000 NEET youth. The programme has recently launched its free, interactive digital platform (, where fresh graduates and young entrepreneurs can learn about basic legal skills and motivation, among other topics.