For businesses looking to innovate, organizations hoping to creatively address society’s problems, and parents worried about their adult children’s success, Ilona Dougherty’s perspective is what you have been waiting for. The founder of Apathy is Boring, she speaks to audiences internationally about redefining inter-generational relationships, changing the way we think about Millennials and Gen Z, and encouraging active citizenship. Below, Ilona writes on iPolitics.ca about the need for young people to engage with politics and politicians about the importance of youth employment issues:
The heat of July is settling in and if a young person doesn’t have a summer by now they are unlikely to get one. With talk of a recession, an election on the horizon, and Greece in the news, if youth turn their attention to politics this summer, they could very well make youth unemployment into an election issue.
According to the International Labour Organization, we are in the midst of a global youth employment crisis that continues to worsen. In 2013, across the globe, 73.4 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed, and many more face precarious employment.
In Europe, youth unemployment in Spain and Greece hovers above 50 per cent and Italy, Croatia, and Portugal are not far behind, with youth unemployment ranging from 30 per cent to mid-40 per cent.
As appealing as it might be to dismiss the global and European numbers when Canadian youth unemployment remains at a relatively low 13.2 per cent, it is important to remember that that number alone doesn’t paint a full picture. Youth unemployment numbers don’t include the growing numbers of youth facing a future of precarious and unstable jobs, nor does it report how often youth are undervalued for their work as is the case with unpaid internships.
For the moment, Canadians may have escaped dramatic numbers such as those that we are seeing in Europe. It is important to remember that should the global economic conditions worsen, Canada may not be immune. Young people are often the first ones to feel the burden of a downturn and these effects tend to last.
It has been shown, over and over again, that youth unemployment not only has an impact for young people now, but earning less and working less when one is young also has a long-term impact on future employment and earning potential.
As economists David NF Bell and David G Blanchflower put it, unemployment while young can cause “permanent scars rather than the temporary blemishes they cause for other age groups.” On the upside, if youth are employed, for every year that a teenager works, their income during their twenties increases 14 to 16 per cent.
The economic impact of youth unemployment doesn’t only effect youth. According to a report by TD Economics, youth unemployment in Canada will cost the economy $23.1 billion over the next 18 years.
Studies also indicate that youth unemployment has repercussions beyond the economy. Researchers indicate that it can lead to youth “disenfranchisement, discontent, disenchantment and disengagement.” When the Boys and Girls Club of Canada presented a brief to the House Standing Committee on Finance, they warned that high rate of unemployment for youth may be linked to a higher crime rates in low income neighbourhoods.
As we watch the drama unfolding in Greece over the coming weeks, it would be prudent to also observe how Europe works to solve its own youth unemployment crisis. With a global epidemic that is unlikely to improve anytime soon, Canada would be smart to seek out best practices now, on how we might proactively address and prevent the potential far-reaching impact of an economically disenfranchised youth population right here at home.
There is no doubt that youth unemployment has been and will continue to be a part of the political discourse leading up to the fall election. The NDP, Liberals, and Conservatives have all mentioned youth unemployment in one way or another over the last few months. Whether in the form of funding announcements or pledges to support the middle class, it is an issue that seems to be capturing the attention of political leaders as we head towards an election campaign.
It is often stated that elections always boil down to the economy. Who can forget Brian Mulroney’s ‘jobs, job, jobs’ slogan in the 1984 federal election campaign? Perhaps that should become the rallying cry for a new generation too young to have heard it the first time around.
If young Canadians want to have an impact on this federal election, the first thing they need to do is to vote on October 19th. But they don’t just have to wait until Election Day to affect the outcome of the campaign. They can also take time this summer to discuss their perspectives on youth unemployment and precarious employment with their local candidates.
Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum already understand that this issue is important. Young people driving it home would mean that there might just be enough political will for the winning party to address this issue come November. More importantly, any topic that gets young people and politicians talking could be the beginning of a dialogue between these two disparate groups that is sorely needed.