Trudeau says job hopes of young Canadians are low

Trudeau bemoans prospects of young Canadians

But studies aren’t so down on the youth job market

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

At an event staged in an otherwise cheerful diner in Aylmer, Que., Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sounded awfully gloomy earlier this week, when he described the mood among young Canadians.

“Something about Canada just isn’t the same as when we were growing up,” Trudeau said, just before announcing his Liberal party’s new child-benefit and middle-class tax-cut policies. “Because, when we were growing up, it seemed like the sky was the limit. If you worked hard, got a good education and applied yourself, you could get a good job.”

It made me think back on growing up in the stagflation era of the 1970s, then graduating into what passed for a recovery after the 1982 recession. I’m not sure my cohort actually felt all that confident. But nostalgia is an imprecise instrument of policy.

And Trudeau is a little—okay, a fair bit—younger than me. So I wondered what sort of job market he graduated into, back in 1998, from the University of British Columbia. Maybe he remembers distinctly better days.

According to Statistics Canada, though, the unemployment rate for 15- to 24-year-olds in the spring of ’98 was 15 per cent, worse than this spring’s 13 per cent. And the employment rate, 52 per cent in the spring of ’98, was lower than this spring’s 56 per cent.

So these numbers don’t give us an obvious grounding for Trudeau recalling young people striding into the job market feeling a lot better then than they do now. And yet, when he talked about how kids today don’t see as bright a future, heads were nodding among the invited families gathered around the tables and booths at Dinty’s restaurant.

Probably they didn’t catch the news about last month’s Abacus Data poll that found that less than one-quarter of 18- to 35-year-old Canadians surveyed thought they would fail to achieve or exceed their parents’ standard of living and level of happiness. Nearly half, 46 per cent, expected their generation to do better than their mothers and fathers, while about a third guessed they’ll roughly match their parents.

Trudeau intoned that, while getting a good education and applying yourself used to be seen as the surefire ticket, “it doesn’t feel like that anymore.” But those who doubt the old formula still works might be reassured by a TD Economics special report on youth employment, released late last year, which noted that, in 2010, more than 90 per cent of that year’s graduates from post-secondary institutions found jobs—remarkable, given that the economy had just been rocked by a recession.

Indeed, the experience of the 2009 recession seems to run counter to the widely held notion that the economy is tougher than ever on youth. A 2012 report by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada noted that the youth unemployment rate increased by half in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, but by a markedly less punishing one-third, from 11.6 per cent to 15.2 per cent, in the 2009 downturn.

None of this is to suggest that young Canadians have no worries about work. The most unsettling finding of that TD Economics report, to me, at least, is evidence that full-time jobs for young people are increasingly being offered with a predetermined end date, what we’d usually called a contract position. “Temporary jobs tend to pay lower wages, offer fewer benefits (medical and pension), are less likely to offer on-the-job training, and are more precarious in nature,” the TD report said.

That’s cause for anxiety, no question about it. Overall, though, the bank’s economists found that “the problems that are said to exist in the Canadian youth labour market may not be as severe as some commentators suggest.”

Trudeau’s considerable political appeal is largely built on the way he sounds so upbeat. Natural optimism, however, is not an easy trait to emphasize when you’re an opposition leader. His job is often to accentuate the negative. As the long campaign of 2015 picks up momentum, I’ll be watching to see how Trudeau manages the trick of maximizing the advantage of a youthful, buoyant persona, if he also intends to keep talking about how young Canadians generally don’t feel so hot.


Trudeau bemoans prospects of young Canadians

  1. Good heavens….you’ve done the first columnized ‘hey you kids, get offa my lawn’

    Even has a little of ‘kids today!’ thrown in.

    Well, those kids today have been told all through school that they will have at least 5 or 6 different jobs in their lives. These would be ‘contract jobs’…..not to mention part-time jobs.

    And the ‘old days, old ways’ no longer apply.

    We’ll have high unemployment in factory jobs, trade jobs, working class jobs….but jobs we can’t begin to fill in STEM fields.

    So your future is determined by your past.

    Free university.

  2. Numbers about employment are poor indicators of how youth are fairing. Are youth working in fields that they studied and trained to be in? What is their standard of living? What are the effects of high student debt loads post graduation? Does their current job offer job security, benefits, paid sick leave, etc.? We should be focusing on quantity AND quality.

    Everyone I know my age who has struggled to find work has found work out of necessity (you have no other choice when you have bills to pay), but that work has often been in retail, sales, services, and other low-paying low-skilled sectors.

  3. I graduated last year and found a temporary, part-time job. I had over 30,000 in student debt and many of my friends are in the same situation. yes, we see our future as more difficult but with the right government and policies maybe we will pull ahead and make things a little less hard for our children – if we can afford to have them. I want to see action on climate change, poverty, under- and unemployment and education, and the conservatives are moving in the wrong direction. So please, lets have a liberal government that understands our priorities and works for us, and not for the corporations.

  4. There are three kinds of liars. Liars, damned liars and statistics. John Geddes and all other neocon bedazzled economic commentators seem to have missed the basic structure of economic benefit which has been visible since WW2; and which Harper and his merry band of corporate economic-rentier class humpers (media included) seem to have overlooked – is the Harper era exportation of Canada’s manufacturing sector through corporate (and three blind mice media pundits) pleasing so called ‘free-trade’ agreements among many other actions and policies. The best paid, historically throughout the last 100 years, entry level jobs have been in the, Harper disappeared, manufacturing sector. The analysis here doesn’t take into account the fact of the recent profusion of part-time and (new euphemism for unemployed) BFS (business for self) “jobs”. None of these part time or BFS (unemployed) ?jobs? provide a family supporting income or family friendly benefits when compared to manufacturing jobs. In the 70’s & 80’s we may have had worse looking general employment statistics but the employment was much higher quality. Playing fast & free with statistics by neocon owned media (my friend asked me what I thought of the ‘mass-media’. I said I thought it would be a good idea!!) and choosing to ignore the gross reduction of employment quality as manufacturing jobs were purposely moved offshore to slave-wage workers who will never buy a single thing manufactured in Canada, is depressing to more than those unfortunates that are now and will be in the future, entering the workforce. Every single Canadian should be whipping the backsides of the neocon politicians and the genuflecting corporate ( that is to say ALL!) media elites who espouse the nonsense that corporate gifts somehow create good family supporting jobs. My God, look at the total demise of the nuclear family model which has one parent at home supporting, nurturing and educating their children while the other has a family supporting manufacturing job – oops, Harper, paid-off neocon economists and corporations, exported all of those jobs!
    If the youth of today had the same economic opportunity as Canadians had in the ’60’s & 70’s’ (good well paid manufacturing jobs) they would not be so depressed and un-married. Family formation (for native-born Canadians dropping like a stone!!) would not have to depend on importing families from economically highly depressed countries! If we were really doing well we would have far more new Canadians from developed countries rather than a flood of immigrants from third world disaster economies. Harper struts around bragging about a new trade agreement with the Philippines whose population can only feed themselves because of the year-round growing season and wage levels that wouldn’t keep a squirrel alive in Canada!?! How stupid are Canadian neocon Harperesque agenda humping corporate media hacks, for forecasting a rosy employment picture for young Canadians?? Really really stupid!! Upping the quantity of part time jobs which replace full time manufacturing jobs, is not an economic advantage – it IS a disaster!!!!