Statistics Canada has crunched some very interesting data on young people and jobs, and found that the situation has gotten worse for us over the last four decades. Surprise, surprise. The report analyzed employment data between 1976 and 2015 and discovered that even though the youth unemployment rate has remained roughly the same (12.4 percent in 1976 versus 13.2 percent in 2015), the quality of these jobs have vastly declined.
There are too many crappy part-time jobs for young people
In essence, the report says that fewer young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 (who are NOT full-time students) are working in full-time jobs today compared to 1976. This is indeed unsurprising, considering the number of part-time jobs versus full-time jobs that our economy is creating (see chart below).
The actual numbers in the report are pretty stark. From 1976 to 1978 the full-time employment rate, that is, the percentage of our population holding a full-time job, averaged 76 percent for men aged 17 to 24 and 58 percent for women in that same age group. Fast forward three decades or so to 2014, and those percentages had plunged to 59 percent and 49 percent respectively.
According to Stats Canada, the drop in the number of young people working full-time was “already apparent in the late 1990s, and thus originated long before the 2008-2009 recession”.
Wayne Lewchuk, an expert on unemployment (and professor at McMaster University’s labour studies and economics department) attributes this trend to a “lack of commitment by employers to employees in the long-term.” In a 2015 joint report with United Way that studied the impact of employment precarity on communities in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, Lewchuk and his co-authors found that over 550,000 manufacturing workers had been laid off in the past decade alone.
“These jobs typically paid living wages and provided workplace benefits,” the report said. “Today, retail—an industry that typically pays below-average wages, lacks security and offers few benefits—is the leading employment sector in the economy.”
We’ve basically been earning the same measly income since forever
The Stats Can report also touched on the evolution of wages in Canada among young people, a vital socio-economic measure when putting into context unemployment figures. Again, pretty sad.
Young Canadian men (between 17 and 24) saw their hourly wages drop about ten percent between the early 1980s and 2015. For females, that drop was less significant—only three percent. Full-time male employees aged 25 to 34 were the demographic that experienced the smallest decline in wages in the last 35-odd years, basically earning about the same amount as their counterparts in the 1980s did.
It’s worth noting that none of these groups saw their earnings increase; a scenario that is at best, bleak… at worst, unsustainable, considering the extent to which costs of living are increasing in this country.
Vanmala is VICE Canada’s Money and Economics Editor. Follow her on Twitter