Chantal Hébert: New research on employment opportunities

It’s that time of year again – fresh proms, Spring break vacations, spring cleaning, allergies and backyard barbecues for those seeking as much grilling as possible. For students across Canada, the remaining days of…

Chantal Hébert: New research on employment opportunities

It’s that time of year again – fresh proms, Spring break vacations, spring cleaning, allergies and backyard barbecues for those seeking as much grilling as possible. For students across Canada, the remaining days of spring will be spent outside and dreaming of a summer job.

Young people seeking to gain work opportunities in Canada have made two findings noteworthy. First, they confirm what family members have told us for years, this wage gap problem exists in Canada – even with recent program changes to boost demand.

Second, the realization has also been that its a problem for young people.

An estimated 3,000 new posts are needed in the GTA alone with a prime-age employment ratio (where employed compared to the prime-age population) of 2.6. Ontario needs nearly 400,000 additional posts in the same context.

First, the path to a better-paid, decent-wage job has become longer and it’s harder to get one, especially for young people. As the demand for new jobs continues to grow, our economic participation rate has slowed over the past decade and most of these jobs are going to those who are already in the labour force.

Source: Conference Board of Canada report Young and working in Canada, link.reuters.com/nyq66v

Currently, young Canadians are working just 42% of the time they want to work.

Source: Conference Board of Canada report Young and working in Canada, link.reuters.com/nyq66v

This reality can all be traced back to a structural change in the Canadian labour market that involves the evolving profile of workers and the shifting nature of the demand-supply situation.

Businesses are responding to the changes by shifting their skills up the knowledge stack and starting up more employees offshoring and in-sourcing. However, businesses are also far less eager to hire and train new employees. For example, the change in their hiring patterns have caused a significant increase in the use of contract workers and is linked to growing job insecurity.

Significant interest remains in the resource sector, but employment has slowed, especially in Alberta. The way the Canadian labour market has been adapting to the changes in the economy means companies, unlike at this time in 2013, now have to search far longer for new positions and they are often hiring from abroad. This has meant companies are using an ever-greater percentage of temporary, contract and temporary work placements.

Source: Conference Board of Canada report Young and working in Canada, link.reuters.com/nyq66v

We should not let the solace that many young people often get frustrated (and perhaps underappreciated) into any form of self-satisfaction. Here’s why the situation for young people is never good.

First, through this process, young people are losing opportunities, which disrupt their lives and often leads to negative self-perceptions, mental health issues and declining confidence.

Second, the erosion of bargaining power puts young people at a serious disadvantage in a marketplace where postsecondary schooling and skill training must keep pace with rapidly changing skills demands.

Third, the reduction in the rate of youth job growth is linked to the fact youth have less access to apprenticeships and credentials that are needed for employment. For example, since 2012, young people living in Toronto have seen a 34% decline in the number of tradespeople and a 68% decline in the number of construction workers in their neighbourhood.

Sources: Conference Board of Canada report Young and working in Canada, link.reuters.com/nyq66v

I have yet to hear that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh feel a responsibility to address these developments that are equally relevant for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who prides himself on having Canada as the happiest country in the world. And Mr. Singh, in the case of Quebec, refuses to represent a young people who are feeling left behind – which is shocking given that, according to the NEIU, Quebec’s youth unemployment rate is higher than 10% in all but one of the last ten years.

Perhaps Mr. Singh could get together with his fellow NDP MPs in Ottawa to find ways to foster equal opportunity for young people across the country and, in the process, offer them a clear vision for a better Canada.

• Chantal Hébert is the executive director of the C.D. Howe Institute

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