|But, no one will.|
Statistics Canada has released the unemployment figures for December 2011 and there's some interesting trends relating to young workers. Employment among youth, aged 15 to 24, declined for the third straight month (see, December: -17,000; November: -18,000; October: -14,600). This is further evidence of the continuing deterioration of the youth labour market which hasn't recovered the jobs lost during the last recession.
Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, wrote a great article examining the hidden trends behind the latest figures. He states "Canadians in their prime working years (the 25 to 54 year olds) have just barely rounded the corner, but most importantly the situation for the young has not improved at all. A quarter of a million 15 to 24 year olds lost their jobs between September 2008 and August 2009, but by the end of 2011 only about 15,000 were recovered."
Although I haven't looked at the data, I'm sure higher unemployment rates exist for workers in the 25 to 29 and 30 to 34 demographics as well. Statistics Canada, in my opinion, uses an outdated concept of youth (ie. 15 to 24) that doesn't accurately reflect realities like higher life expectancy rates, increased time in post-secondary education (i.e. credentialism) and generally the concept of delayed adulthood.
The unemployment figures from the fall point to the existence of dangerous aftershocks from the last recession such as economic scarring, lower career earnings, precarious employment and long-term joblessness. There hasn't been any form of public policy response to address the massive job losses that young people have experienced; incredibly, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley even blamed young Canadians for having "chosen never to get a job".
Aside from welfare and student loans there aren't many government income programs that young people can readily access to provide financial assistance in the face of dismal private and public sector hiring. Young people generally can't access EI due to restrictions on qualifying and aren't eligible for other programs like CPP, OAS and pensions, all of which are use age or decades spent working as qualifying mechanisms.
What we're seeing is a "failure to launch" of epic proportions as young Canadians now live in the parental home longer (or return to it), delay starting relationships and can't take the jump into full adulthood due to financial barriers. One can't blame them either, as it's difficult to build a life working endless contract gigs, unpaid internships or dead-end minimum wage jobs.
We need innovative public policy solutions at the federal and provincial levels that address the dysfunctional nature of Canada's labour market and the long ignored contradictions that are inherent in it. That's not happening at present and we're seeing the fruits of sustained neglect around labour market policy as young people get left behind by the economy.
Previously, I've argued that what's occurring is a strategic abandonment of young people within Canadian society; in the face of clear evidence that youth are suffering and amid a lack of response from government my thesis of strategic abandonment is gaining credence. It seems that boomer politicians and economists intend on balancing the books on the backs of youth through austerity measures and at the expense of any notion of intergenerational equity.
That's all for now. Next week we'll delve into the policy responses that are needed to address the structural labour market problems that young people face.