Fewer student jobs plus fewer hours equals dilemma
By Sydney Loney
A report published Monday by Statistics Canada shows the outlook for Canada's youth in the current job market is bleak when compared with similar data from 1989.
The report concluded that not only do youths aged 15 to 24 earn less and work fewer hours, they are also faced with greater competition in the labour force as well as an increasingly difficult school-to-work transition.
"It is a problem a massive problem," said the director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, Matthew Hough. The association is trying to promote young people in the private sector and encouraging the government to promote its own employment programs, he said.
The report states that although school attendance has improved dramatically in the past few years, this trend is largely due to the fact the current labour market is "a very precarious place for Canadian youths." It summarized university students are faced with the added difficulty of paying off student loans amassed while attempting to acquire a strong educational background.
Although more students are working in addition to attending post-secondary institutions, the quality of summer jobs available has not only decreased but is predominantly limited to part-time employment. The rate for student and non-student youths working part-time doubled between 1976 and 1996 from 21 per cent to 46 per cent. The summer unemployment rate for youths has also jumped from 10.1 per cent in July 1989 to 18.4 per cent for the same month in 1996.
Despite the grim outlook presented by Statistics Canada's report, Sharon Lee, co-ordinator of student employment services at Western's student development centre, presented a more optimistic view regarding the future for students in Canada's workforce.
"Today's youth will lead a more interesting and exciting life than [their] predecessors. It just doesn't look like it at the moment."
Lee said education is still the most critical factor for success, although she said she was not surprised by the data released by Statistics Canada. Lee added the statistics represent nothing new and the trend has been there for a long time.
The report outlines three major obstacles confronting students attempting to achieve success in today's labour force. Job creation in the 1990s has not kept up with population growth and there is a greater number of adults competing for jobs typically occupied by youths. Occupational mobility for youths is limited because baby boomers continue to dominate the work force. Youths are also at the greatest risk in the current labour market due to trends of restructuring and down-sizing because they have less seniority.
Lee said students should not to become disillusioned or regard their academic endeavours as a waste of time. She said her advice to university students was "to pay attention to the world around them" because in light of the present global economy, today's youth "are on the leading edge of tremendous, unprecedented change" and an awareness of what is going on in the world is the ticket to success.