NO one would have thought that the year of 2020 would bring such a dramatic change to almost everyone’s lives, and 26-year-old Surastini is no exception.

In February, she made the big decision to quit her job in marketing. She left Cirebon, West Java to search for new opportunities in hopes of improving her career prospects.

She was in the final stage of job interviews with several companies outside of Cirebon when the Covid-19 outbreak began in Indonesia and brought activities to a virtual standstill.

Four months have passed and the outbreak has shown no signs of ending.

Staying positive despite all of the hurdles is the only option Surastini has now. She said she was glad the situation had led her back to her parents’ house in Bandung after living away from them for almost three years in Cirebon.

“I am getting used to the whole pandemic thing. To some extent, I still feel a sense of insecurity, particularly with regard to what’ll happen next. But, I still have faith; I know this [difficult time] will eventually pass,” she said.

“We are the young generation. We are striving for our careers. We are thinking about doing things that can lead us to a better future. It is just that time seems to have stopped during the pandemic. New job opportunities are very rare today. That makes me feel insecure.”

While Surastini quit her job for new opportunities right before the epidemic, former flight attendant Ajeng Kartika Ayu, 26, was hit hard by the fact that she was laid off. The epidemic forced the airline she had been employed by to furlough and lay off some of its employees.

“I’m still recovering from the fact that I was laid off from my first job. I did not expect the pandemic to affect my career, ” said Ajeng, who joined millions of Indonesian workers who lost their livelihoods during the epidemic.

The Manpower Ministry recorded in April that more than 1.2 million workers from 74,439 companies in both the formal and informal sectors had either been told to stay home or were laid off as a result of the epidemic.

Recruitment is also shrinking as companies focus more on how to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on their finances, forcing jobseekers like Surastini to postpone submitting applications.

Ajeng and Surastini’s concerns are reflected in a global survey on millennials launched by audit and consulting firm Deloitte late last month.

It found that millennials – people born between January 1983 and December 1994 – and Generation Z – born between January 1995 and December 2003 – were likely to find the roots of their stress or anxiety from thinking about the welfare of their family, their longer term financial future and their career prospects.

The survey polled 18,426 millennials and members of Generation Z from 43 countries, including Indonesia, India, Japan, Nigeria and the United States between November 2019 and January this year.

It found that “pandemic-related shutdowns” had dealt a hard blow to Generation Z and younger millennials – between 25 and 30 years old – with almost 30% of respondents having reported job losses or unpaid leave.

Despite this, Deloitte found that stress levels had decreased as the pandemic went on compared to previous months before the pandemic. Having more time with family and less commuting in traffic jams as a result from the work from home policy had resulted in lowered stress levels experienced by millennials and Generation Z, the survey said.

Fajar Purnomo Adi, 26, who works at an e-commerce firm in Jakarta is a prime example.

“Of course, at the beginning I was afraid of getting infected by the virus since I work with people with high mobility, ” he said. “Then, many start-ups began laying off their workers; but my company was still going strong. Now I have no real anxiety but to maintain a safe physical distance and limit my interactions with people.”

Fajar, who has been working from home, said he had no problem if the WFH policy became the norm in the post-pandemic world given that he “would have more time to spend with family”.

His opinion was in line with 69% of millennials in Deloitte’s study who said that they would like to have the option of working from home in the future to relieve stress.

Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, millennials and Generation Z are still able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the survey said, describing them as “resilient generations”.

Ajeng and Surastini, for example, refused to be trapped in misery. Ajeng has been thinking of starting a small clothing business, while Surastini has applied for a master’s program using the savings she collected from her previous job.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has radically shifted our way of life – how we work, socialise, shop, and more – and younger generations have been especially impacted, ” Michele Parmelee, chief people and purpose officer at Deloitte Global, said in a statement.

“However, despite uncertain and discouraging conditions, millennials and Generation Z express impressive resiliency and a resolve to improve the world. As we rebuild our economies and society, young people will be critical in shaping the world that emerges.” — The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

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