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Jobless youth crisis demands urgent action

Published in the Hamilton Spectator

Back in 2006, when the Harper Conservatives took office, the unemployment rate for males and females between 15 and 24 stood at 12.2 per cent — double the rate for adults. Today it has grown to 13.6 per cent nationally and 16.4 per cent in Ontario. That’s bad enough, but it doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of young people who have gone back to school because they can’t find work, or they have simply stopped trying and are off the radar.

And it doesn’t consider underemployment. Almost half of young workers labour part-time and don’t earn enough to live on. They are typically not using the skills they went to school to learn. Their employment is precarious, and thanks to tighter EI regulations, more don’t have access to EI so can’t even quit their job to upgrade their skills.

Our condition is not as bad as in some countries — Greece comes to mind, where youth unemployment has averaged just under 33 per cent between 1998 and 2014. But it’s bad and not getting any better.

And consider this: Toronto-based non-profit group Civic Action has researched the crisis, and among other things reports that the estimated collective loss of tax revenue from high school dropouts over a 35-year period is $115 billion. What are we doing? Where is this generation of unemployed and underemployed workers going to be in 15 years? What will their standard of living be like compared to their parents? How will that loss of tax revenue impact government services, including and perhaps especially health care for aging and sick baby boomers?

Read the full article here.