Youth unemployment is high in Canada. Statistics Canada’s 2012 report shows that one in 10 young people are “economically at risk”. Youth aged 15 to 24 are experiencing record high rates of unemployment, where 14.3 per cent of the age group is unemployed
This trend toward youth unemployment is especially present in Ontario, where unemployment rates for young workers are higher than other provinces (except the Atlantic region).
On Sept. 27, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report that documents Ontario’s poor employment rate, the worst of which exists in Toronto. The gap between youth and adult employment rates in Ontario rests at 21.8 percent, the worst the province has ever seen.
Sean Geobey, a doctoral candidate in social and environmental finance at the University of Waterloo told CBC that “there is only one in two Ontarians between the ages 15 and 24 who have paid employment. What that is, is the worst numbers we’ve seen since Stats Canada has kept these numbers since 1976″.
Geobey explains that the problem is not so much a lack of entry-level jobs, but rather the issue stems from who is filling those jobs. “The thing is they’re not being filled by 15, 16, 17-year-old people anymore. They’re being filled by 65, 66, 67-year-old people,” says Geobey.
Explaining the phenomenon more clearly, Geobey adds, “Folks who watched their retirement savings get crushed in the 2008 financial crisis have been forced to really delay retirement and a lot of people have been re-entering the workforce in order to make ends meet”.
Not gaining job experience early in life has long-term impacts on youths’ ability to find work in the future. “There’s a phenomenon called ‘scarring’ which occurs when young people are not able find work. They get older they haven’t built up that experience, they haven’t built up those connections and it really does hurt their lifetime employability,” says Geobey.
A report released by CBC Canada states that “one in five youth not working today has never held a job. That is 40 per cent higher than the long-term average and just shy of the record high reached in the late 1990s”.
These numbers mean that when youth have finished school and are looking for fruitful full-time employment, they may not have the skills needed to compete in an already highly competitive job market.
Lack of paid employment experience also compounds with credential inflation, where more and more students are earning degrees (and going into debt in the process) and the degrees are losing their value.
Rick Miner, former Seneca College president told The Star, “There’s an increased need for people who are in more skilled categories. That doesn’t mean simply trades. Technicians, technologists, engineers, research scientists.
“Yet, more and more young people are enrolled in the humanities and social sciences, programs that don’t have an obvious link to the economy. How many philosophers can we employ in the world? Or historians?” says Miner.