New data from Statistics Canada shows that while youth unemployment has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding full-time work has been increasingly precarious since the late 1980s.
The federal agency reported on Monday both male and female workers between 15 and 30 were less likely to have a full-time job in 2019 compared with 1989, a period marked by a rise in part-time employment for the age group.
And some 40 years later, the pandemic has caused further upheaval as the percentage of young people not employed or in school rose almost four percentage points from 2019 to 2020.
The overall unemployment rates for youth rose about six percentage points between 2019 and 2020, the agency noted, which is just about double the rate found with other age groups.
Young people who would’ve entered the job market in 2020 are now doing it this year and could see lower earnings, StatCan projects.
The effect of the pandemic has been particularly notable on young workers, said Arif Jetha, a scientist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, since young people tend to be the first to feel the shocks of economic upheaval.
“Their tenure is shorter, they’re newer to organizations, they’re also more likely to work precariously and in jobs that might be more affected by fluctuations in our economic landscape,” said Jetha in an interview.
Aside from jobs, internships and work placements were cancelled in the early stages of the pandemic, he added, tools young people often use as the starting blocks for their career.
Those not enrolled in full-time study saw their employment rates drop around eight percentage points, while rates for other age groupsdropped only about four percentage points in the same time.
StatCan says pay rates rose for younger employees, but that phenomenon was driven in large part by a reduction in low-paying jobs that were previously held by younger employees.
And young people entering the workforce as the pandemic continues may also prove to be difficult, Jetha added, calling the current job environment an “unpredictable” one for youth.
Jehta also spoke of a “misperception” there tended to be around millennial and Gen Z workers about a desire to have more flexible jobs before the onset of the pandemic. He disagrees, however.
“I think many people desired stability. I think what a lot of young people were increasingly seeing was that these types of jobs, high-quality jobs … are becoming less and less available,” he said, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, there seemed to be this diminishing quality of work that we were already seeing.”
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