Hamilton’s Youth Face Declining Income

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Precarious employment is to blame, but many policy solutions are in reach

By Sara Mayo

Employment earnings of Hamilton’s youth have declined by about 50% since 1976.

That’s a finding in from a new SPRC bulletin released today. This bulletin presents Statistics Canada data on historical trends in income in the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area, which includes Burlington and Grimsby.

The bulletin shows there were dramatic drops in the employment income of youth aged 20-24 after the 1980’s and 1990’s recession in Hamilton and across Ontario, and there has not been any recovery since then.

This data shows that major shifts in the labour market towards precarious work are having negative impacts on youth. The reality of youth employment is very different than it was in the 1970’s; many youth now face lower wages, fewer hours of work, decreasing access to permanent jobs and more time unemployed between contracts. We know also that precarious work has a negative toll on workers’ physical and mental health.

Older youth have seen a much smaller decrease in their employment income than those aged 20-24, the report notes, but it highlights the low ranking of Hamilton for employment earnings for young workers aged 25-34 compared to seven other large Ontario communities. Median employment income for young workers in this age group in 2010 were only $27,300 in the Hamilton CMA, compared to $35,200 in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. The report explains that in both communities 32% of youth have a university degree, so educational differences would not account for the differences in income.

The good news is that organizations across the country are pushing for policies to better protect youth. Changes to the Employment Standards Act, more pro-active enforcement, and a higher minimum wage for example.

The other good news is that the City of Hamilton’s youth unemployment out-performed all other communities during the most recent recession, according to the bulletin. The data shows that while it might be easier for youth in Hamilton to find work than in other communities, the income from that job might not be enough to live on.

Click to download Recession Impacts: Youth

 This bulletin is part of a series called Hamilton’s Social Landscape that began in 2012. Click here to see previous bulletins in this series.

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