Job market more difficult than new Finance Minister may realise (Letter to Globe and Mail)

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Letter submitted to Globe and Mail

Dear editor,

It appears Canada’s new Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, had a momentary lapse when he told your newspaper: “The reality is, [youth unemployment is] 13 per cent. That means 87 per cent are employed.” (Morneau may be suffering from millennial blindness)

In fact, Statistics Canada reports that only about 55% of youth aged 15-24 in Canada are employed. The remaining 32% are youth outside of the labour market, primarily students, but also including about 11% of youth who are not in education, employment or training.

In Hamilton, our recent Vital Signs report for the Hamilton Community Foundation, found that local youth employment rates have dropped from 68% in 1987 to 53% in 2014, and while a big part of that change is increasing post-secondary education rates among youth, it also indicates how much more difficult it has become for students to get a summer job or part-time job during the last few decades. In contrast, the employment rate of Hamilton’s 25-54 age group was 82% in 2014, the same as in 1987.

The Minister also said in his Globe and Mail interview that “most of the really smart people find jobs”, which ignores the reality that the systemic barriers to employment for many cannot simply be overcome by being “smart enough”. Our Vital Signs reported on data showing that lack of accessible childcare, deep poverty experienced some Hamiltonians and racism and discrimination by employers is limiting access to jobs.

The question remains, should Canadians be satisfied with an economy which is said to be doing well since “most of the really smart people find jobs”? Are we OK with an economy in which some ‘really smart people’ and an even bigger proportion of ‘pretty smart, but not really smart people’ can’t find jobs? Are we OK with an economy in which “most of the really smart people find jobs”, but in places like Hamilton, 57% of workers aged 25-65 hold insecure and precarious jobs?

Don Jaffray and Sara Mayo
Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton


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