There was a time when a University degree assured you a of good job, good pay and a comfortable life. Not any more. Today, the unemployment rate for young people in this country is close to 15% – double that of the general population. But the real crisis is the increasing number of university and college grads who are underemployed – scraping by on low-paid, part-time jobs that don’t require a degree. Although there are no official statistics in Canada, it’s estimated that after graduating, one in three 25 to 29 year olds with a college or university degree ends up in a low-skilled job. And to make things worse, 60% graduate with an average debt of $27,000. Mired in debt, and working in dead end jobs, their launch into adulthood is being curtailed. Some call them “the lost generation”. But, it’s not only young people who may be lost. If the next generation fails to gain a toehold into the economy, who’ll buy boomer’s houses? Who’ll pay for social programs? Youth unemployment and underemployment is a ticking time bomb with serious consequences for everyone.
GENERATION JOBLESS delves into why so many young Canadians are overeducated and underemployed. The reality is that today’s twenty-something’s are entering an economy in the throes of a seismic shift where globalization and technology are transforming the workplace. Automation is replacing tens of thousands of jobs at a time. Companies fixated on the bottom line are outsourcing jobs and wherever possible getting computers to do the work. Employers are placing a higher premium on experienced workers, unwilling to invest in training new entrants to the workforce. So, young people are caught in a catch 22. How do you get experience if no one will hire you without it? Many are working for free as unpaid interns, just to try and get their foot in the door. And, for the first time in history youth are facing another unique challenge – competition with their parents’ generation for the small pool of jobs that do exist. Boomers who are delaying retirement.
By all accounts the problem is only going to get worse. Especially since the key players in Canada –universities, employers and governments – are not working together to find a solution. Canada is the only country in the world without a national body responsible for education and is seen as one of the most decentralized and fragmented countries in the world when it comes to helping young people make a smooth entry into the world of work.
Several experts weigh in on what many are calling the most important social issue of our time – including Francis Fong, TD Bank Economist and author of the report The Plight of Younger Workers that paints a bleak picture of youth employment in Canada;Armine Yalnizyan Sr. Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who has been tracking trends in the labour market for two decades; and Dr. Paul Cappon, former head of the Canadian Council on Learning a research and advocacy program focused on learning in Canada;
The documentary takes viewers to Switzerland where the youth unemployment rate is 2.8% – the lowest in the developed world. Here the idea of young people graduating with degrees and unable to find jobs is virtually unheard of. Dr. Stefan Wolter, Director of the Coordination Centre For Research In Education, explains how all levels of government, educators and employers, work together to ensure that education and training are linked to employment.
GENERATION JOBLESS is directed by Sharon Bartlett and Maria LeRose, who also produced the documentary with Sue Ridout for Dreamfilm Productions with the participation on CBC-TV