Young Lives at Work: a revised approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

5 May 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic is having substantial impacts on populations around the world, both in developed and developing countries and is rapidly evolving in all four Young Lives study countries.  In response, we have developed an ambitious, revised approach to our Young Lives at Work research programme and data collection activities for 2020. We are very grateful to DFID, who is funding this work, for their flexibility in supporting this adapted approach.  

We will quickly adapt the Round 6 study design to provide rapid new research data and insights into COVID-19 related impacts, and in the process will add significant value to the longitudinal research planned for Young Lives at Work.  This will be achieved through firstly, implementing a phone survey in 2020 including specific questions about the impact of the COVID-19 virus; and secondly, postponing the in-person Round 6 survey fieldwork by one calendar year to 2021. 

Listening to Young Lives: COVID-19 phone survey 2020

The phone survey will investigate the short term impact of COVID-19 on the young people in our study, now aged 19 and 25, for example in terms of their health and well-being, and on their transition to the labour market and higher education. Through a series of short phone calls, we aim to better understand: 

  • What proportion have been affected by COVID-19 (through illness themselves, or through illness or death of a family member or a neighbour, through lost income, job loss, food insecurity and disruption to their education plans and aspirations)
  • What behaviour changes have occurred since the crisis began and how have they affected well-being (effectiveness of lockdown or restrictions on movement, positive health behaviours; beliefs about virus spread; access to information)
  • What are the short term effects of the crisis on individual outcomes (health, including mental health; subjective well-being; educational attainment of 19 year olds; employment and earnings; time use and care responsibilities)
  • To what extent has the pandemic had differential effects (according to gender, economic sector, urban or rural residence, living in poverty).
  • What strategies and policies have had a positive impact in mitigating the immediate impact of the pandemic or promoting positive behaviours (access to cash transfers, food donation, credit relief, access to credit, other forms of economic assistance and access to information about testing and/or treatment)

YL will publish headline outcomes after each round of calls, providing rapid analysis to policy makers on the effect of the pandemic on young people.  Compared to other initiatives aimed at measuring the impact of COVID-19 in developing countries, Young Lives is uniquely positioned to inform policy makers because: 

  • We are building on a long-term relationship of almost 20 years with participants whose background we know well. This allows us to approach difficult subjects in a sensitive way and to collect high quality information with significantly fewer refusals than is usual in a phone survey;
  • The pro-poor nature of the samples – covering both rural and urban areas – allows us to focus on those families that are likely to be most affected by the crisis;
  • We have up-to-date contact information from a recent tracking exercise for Round 6;
  • The multi-dimensional approach of the YL study allows us to see how household welfare is affected;
  • The four-country structure can inform on the differential impacts of COVID-19 according to varying contexts and related strategies implemented by governments.

Round 6 Household Survey 2021

We will carry out the complete in-person Round 6 household survey in 2021, a full calendar year later than originally planned for each of the study countries.  The information collected through the phone survey, together with the data collected in Round 6, will enable us to distinguish the short term and the medium-long term impacts of COVID-19.  We will aim to provide information to:

  • Verify if the short term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on individual outcomes persist in the medium-long term.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the public programs and policies implemented in response to the crisis. 
  • Investigate other sources of risk and impact mitigation (e.g. network and social capital; access to digital devices and distance learning; literacy) and/or exacerbation of the Covid-19 impacts (e.g. chronic vulnerability, extreme poverty; informality; gender; ethnicity).  Analysing different responses may provide important input to future best practices in pandemic planning in LMICs. 
  • Investigate the medium- long term effect of COVID-19 on a variety of outcomes not measured in the phone survey (but captured in the previous survey rounds).  This includes migration and job displacement; education attainment, including delays; learning outcomes including exacerbated educational outcomes due to uneven access to distance learning and different capacities to support children in home learning; family structure including potential impact on unplanned pregnancy; exposure to violence, mental health and risky behaviours; job and education aspirations and behavioural attitude.

The data collected through the phone survey will add significant value to the Young Lives at Work research.  The unique, longitudinal nature of the Young Lives’ study, giving baseline information on two cohorts, will allow us to compare pre- and post COVID-19 outcomes for each cohort.  This inter-cohort analysis will help us to distinguish whether the changes in outcomes observed are due to life-trajectories or are the true effect of the pandemic.  It will also enable us to investigate the effectiveness of different government responses across our four study countries, providing rapid insights for ongoing and future policy interventions. 

We are working quickly to finalise preparations for the phone survey and will continue to update this website in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  You can also follow us on Twitter @yloxford and Facebook.