18 March 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities. Youth have been particularly affected in different dimensions: educational, social, emotional, labor and recreational. In turn, for young people who have lost family care or are at risk of losing it, the crisis adds an additional challenge in the process of achieving autonomy once they leave the protection system.

The path to autonomy, which includes the search for decent work, is a challenge that many of these young people undertake in conditions of inequality and with reduced support networks. In addition, they often feel pressured to leave the protection system when they reach a certain age, regardless of whether they have achieved psychological autonomy, have the material conditions for a good quality life, or have defined their life and career goals.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), before the start of the pandemic, it was estimated that in Latin America and the Caribbean, youth unemployment in 2020 would be 18%, three times higher than the rate of adults[1]. The scenario becomes more complex if the rate of job informality for youth is considered, which in previous years has been reported at 62.4%[2].  In January 2021, the ILO reported that the crisis has reduced youth employment by 8.7%, 5% higher than for adult’s and has affected their inclusion into the labor market[3]. Additionally, in May 2020, UNESCO estimated that 160 million children, adolescents and young people in Latin America and the Caribbean stopped attending educational centers and reports that the crisis has exacerbated digital gaps. This is owing to the fact that many are at a disadvantage when it comes to virtual modalities as they do not have adequate devices or connectivity[4].

"My biggest concern is my education, because it is not the same to study online as in person - sometimes doubts are not resolved, the attention of teachers leaves much to be desired and if you do not have good equipment and internet access, everything is limited even more." (José, 21 years old, Colombia)

In the particular case of young people participating in the programs of SOS Children's Villages in Latin America and the Caribbean, their relationships as partners, friends, family and professionals have been affected, which has had repercussions on their mental and emotional health. Many have lost their jobs, homes or the quality of their education has suffered. The limited access to technology has made it difficult for them to join the virtual space. In addition, some young people who had already left the programmes had to return for support and many planned processes to leave the programs have been delayed.

"Within my life plan, I was supposed to become independent this year, but [...] we did not expect the COVID-19 situation, so it was quite difficult to get certain things, find out where I am going to live, how to get a job, how to get engaged to the health system, the social security system, and think about the resources I needed to support me." (Miguel, 24 years old, Colombia).

"It generates worries, sadness, anxiety and depression. At first it generates a denial of what was happening." (María José, 16 years old, Nicaragua).

SOS Children's Villages is committed to empowering young people, particularly in the current context. Their messages, opinions, proposals and actions are a valuable contribution and an example of resilience, energy and willingness.

"The most beautiful thing that has happened in this quarantine has been to be able [...] to strengthen family ties, now [...] we are much more united as a family to overcome this crisis that we are going through." (Favio, 22 years old, Bolivia)

"Thanks to this I have come to explore many capacities of my own that I did not expect to have, to be honest, mainly because of the fear of exposing some things, of giving my point of view." (Moisés, 17 years old, Guatemala).

Considering this, we promoted a set of videos to enable reflection and exchange. This is how the campaign My voice during the coronavirus pandemic was implemented, in which the messages of more than 150 young people from 13 National Associations of SOS Children's Villages were disseminated through inspiring videos that you will find in the Influencers SOS webpage.

In addition, we organised the webinar series SOS Youth on the Coronavirus, led and moderated by participants from the youth networks of SOS Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico and aimed at thinking about proposals for social-emotional development and employability through virtual tools.

Additionally, the National Associations have diversified actions to support young people who are in the process of leaving or have already left, including: psychosocial support, subsidies for food, rent and education, food and biosecurity kits, connection with affective and support networks, and information on state support.

With regard to the conditions to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the virtual world, the access to technological devices has been improved with the support of DHL's Helping Learners and GoTeach programs, through the donation of 400 devices. In the same vein, we have also moved from classroom training to online training, promoting the use of the Workplace platform, in the frame of the YouthLinks initiative for monitoring, counseling and training of young people and coordination of participation processes.

As an organization, we recognize the potential of adolescents and young people to inspire and support others in this health, social, emotional and economic emergency. In this sense, we call on States and key actors to redouble their efforts to create more and better opportunities for youth in terms of training, access to employment and transition to autonomy.

"We all have the capacity to be protagonists of our story, our life and our abilities, with this we want to invite you to continue and grow as we are." (Rosario, 17 years old, Guatemala).


[1] ILO (2020). Informe Mundial sobre el Empleo Juvenil 2020. Desempleo, informalidad e inactividad asedian a los jóvenes en América Latina y el Caribe. Retrieved from: 

[2] ILO (2020). Informe Mundial sobre el Empleo Juvenil 2020. Desempleo, informalidad e inactividad asedian a los jóvenes en América Latina y el Caribe. Retrieved from: 

[3] ILO (2021). Observatorio de la OIT: La COVID‑19 y el mundo del trabajo. Séptima edición. Estimaciones actualizadas y análisis. Retrieved from:

[4] ECLAC-UNESCO (2020). Education in the time of COVID-19. Retrieved from: