A survey conducted by nonprofit Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción of 535 Puerto Rico college students confirmed many of them have experienced a financial blow from the COVID-19 pandemic and curfew.
The data shows that more than two thirds of the students have seen a reduction in their income. A number of them students were unemployed, while others have experienced a reduction in their working hours.
Since more than one-third of the students moved with a relative, the economic burden has also affected their families, the study showed.
The study covered the economic impact the student population felt, changes in their housing situation, challenges to continue their studies, and obstacles they face to continue moving forward on their professional plans.
Luis Ferrán-Colón, an economics student at the University of Puerto Rico and part of the team that worked on the report, confirmed that the sectors in which students and youth work tend to be the most affected by the quarantine.
“Most young people begin to gain work experience in customer service and retail jobs, and these are some of the sectors that will take the longest to recover,” said Ferrán-Colón.
Alejandro Silva Díaz, Executive Director of Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción, said, “the loss of opportunities and the ability to gain experience represents a greater challenge for young people to progress in the development of their careers.”
The report shows that 42.4% of those surveyed expressed having lost some opportunity for a new job, while 20.5% have lost opportunities for academic development such as conferences, 20% research opportunities, and 16.4% internship opportunities.
Although most of the students have been able to continue their academic courses, access to technology has represented an additional challenge that they must face. One in four students revealed that their main resources to take courses are not the best for the task, while 34.4% expressed having difficulty gaining internet access.
A particular concern that came up is that young people who were about to enter the labor force face the problem of accessing their degrees, certifications and exams needed for licenses.
“This data is worrisome since the professions that generally require taking these tests are jobs in the field of health and law, which are essential to combat the pandemic and its effects,” said Silva-Díaz.
Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción is developing projects to address the need of the younger population, through work groups called Civic Action Labs.
Recommendations included in the report emphasize the transition from remote jobs, developing summer job opportunities and internships, improving internet access, ensuring effective orientation processes, and articulating solutions for young professionals to get their degrees and exams.