Youth struggle to find employment

Graphic by Jacob Lindgren.
Graphic by Jacob Lindgren.

It’s no surprise that Ontario’s youth are some of the most commonly unemployed people in the nation.

A new study released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in Ontario evaluated youth unemployment rates in Canada and  determined that Ontario has the worst rates.

The term “youth” was used to distinguish those in the age group of 15-to-24.

“During the last five years, since the start of the recession, we’ve actually seen workers in Ontario fully regain their jobs and position in the work force,” explained Sean Geobey, the author of the study and doctoral candidate at the University of Waterloo.

“But youth [unemployment rates] have stayed the same or have gotten even worse.”

The study revealed that so far in 2013, Ontario youth unemployment rates have fluctuated between 16 and 17.1 per cent. This is significantly higher than Canada’s youth unemployment rate, which usually stands between 13.5 and 14.5 per cent.

The study also evaluated Ontario’s worst cities for youth unemployment, showing that Windsor, Oshawa, London and Brantford have a youth unemployment rate higher than 20 per cent.

Toronto was also analyzed, displaying a high rate of 18.1 per cent. Toronto currently holds the title for “worst gap” between youth and adult employment in the province, which is 21.8 per cent.

“What’s striking about that was that it wasn’t just that there hadn’t been a recovery amongst youth but that this was really just an Ontario phenomenon,” Geobey said, referring to Canada’s ability to regain jobs after the 2008-2009 recession.

“It really stood out as being quite troubling for the Ontario workforce.”

Geobey also looked at the youth “employment rate” which measures how many youth actually have jobs.

He explained that this rate is significantly worse today than it was before the recession.

Currently, the monthly employment rates in Ontario range from 50–52 per cent. This means that half of all Ontario youth do not have jobs.

“A lot of that can be blamed on the decline of the manufacturing sector,” Geobey said. “But that’s not enough in itself … Quebec has a very similar manufacturing economy but the different between youth unemployment rate and adult in Ontario is over 10 per cent, wherein Quebec its about 3 per cent.”

Geobey also speculated that the provincial government hasn’t exactly made the best choices, saying they have “firmly put the burden of the recession on young worker in Ontario.”

However, the most troubling factors in this study was that many of these unemployed youths were actually college or university educated.

In fact, Ontario youth with “advanced degrees” are showing a 17.1 per cent higher unemployment rate than young workers who have only completed high or other post secondary education.

“You are better off graduating with a university degree than with just a high school diploma,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you are going to get work that’s in your field, or permanent positions, or working beyond a contract of temporary employment.”

Cat Rogers, a recent graduate who has returned home to Ontario, knows this story all too well. She had just come off a four-year sociology program at Ohio University, where she attended on a soccer scholarship.

Now back in Ontario, Rogers has gone five months without work and sees no end.

“It just sucks that I did four years of school, had really good grades, and all that doesn’t really stand for much if you don’t have experience,” she said.

Geobey explained that students who obtain a form of co-op or apprenticeship style program have an upper hand in the job market.

In fact, the Ontario government is now funding a two-year program to help unemployed youth gain relevant work experience needed to earn entry-level positions. Their goal is to create 30,000 jobs in Ontario.

“Given the size of the problem, I think that that’s better than nothing,” explained Goebey. “If the program is successful, that will just bring us down to the Canadian average of unemployment rates.”

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