The ONS has revealed that over three in four (76%) of those aged between 25 and 29 years’ old who were worried about the effect of COVID-19 on their lives reported that it had affected their work. Of those aged between 16-29 years’ old who reported their work had been affected by COVID-19, the most common ways in which it was affected were a reduction in hours (21%), followed by concerns about health and safety.
COVID-19 has also revealed inequality to the types of people losing jobs and hours, with young, working class women the most likely. Many women of this demographic are often in lower paying, part time or service orientated work, which reflects the biggest cut in jobs and restaurants, pubs, beauticians and shops have had to close due to the lockdown restrictions.
The story of Khalaela Wiltshire, 22, has exemplified how many people have had to quickly adapt in this ‘new normal’. Khalaela had her dream job singing and performing on cruise ships when COVID-19 struck.
“I was able to travel the world, sing each night, it was a dream job. Like a never ending holiday. It is seasonal work anyway but I had a job to perform at a theme park lined up for the other half of the year. That couldn’t go ahead because of lockdown. Losing my income was a reality check. I had to brainstorm quickly.”
Khalaela has said that her mental health was greatly affected, with over one in three people stating that so far during lockdown their mood has decreased.
“With losing my job as an entertainer I was really stuck on what to do. I’m normally busy all day everyday so with being stuck inside not doing anything I was turning myself insane.”
Khalaela however had heard a friend was working for the brand ‘Younique’; a parent company brand that distributes makeup to be sold through smaller businesses. Khalaela quickly joined and called her business ‘Forever Beautiful, by Layla’.
“I’ve been buying the products for a while and saw they were looking for reps to start their own business with the brand. So I was motivated to start my own business and earn some extra cash whilst I weren’t able to work.’
“We source our products through our website, when I first started it was super easy because everything was still in stock from before the lockdown. A lot of our products come from Italy and with the lockdown products haven’t been coming in which means a lot of products are now out of stock which has become very difficult. With over 100,000 people joining the business since April, the amount of products that have been sold is crazy hence why a lot of products have gone out of stock.
Normally I would have the time or effort to create my own business because my normal life is crazy. But with all the time on my hands I knew it was now or never to start my own business and it’s saved me to be honest.”
Does she feel that losing her job has given her new opportunities?
“It’s empowering! I’ve never been my own boss before and I’ve met so many new people and made friends for life! And with the lockdown that’s amazing to keep yourselves sane. I get to pick my own hours and do what I think I need to do to support the business. Obviously there’s quite a few of us so we always talk and keep each other going.”
Khalaela is certainly a success story amongst many young people who have struggled and had to adapt during what is now the most uncertain time in their lives. With no stability however also comes the freedom to make choices. Will Khalaela stick to business forever?
"I truly love performing and can’t wait to go back to that. But this has shown me I can turn my hand to anything, so in the future with enough experience I would like to start a business on the side and see what happens. If I can take anything positive from what has happened, it’s that I know how hard I can work if the time calls for it.”