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Persistently Overlooked Youth Unemployment

Written by Catherine McIntyre
Published in Torontoist

Mike Sullivan, the NDP MP representing York South-Weston, recalls a time when companies in Toronto would show up at high school convocations, take their pick of newly minted graduates and launch them into a career—a job some of them would hold down until they retired some 40 years later.

Whether that sounds like a fairytale or a nightmare, for today’s young people, that sort of job security is far from a reality.

If you’re between the ages 15 and 24 and live in the Toronto area, there’s an 18 per cent chance you’re out of school and out of work. For the last few years we’ve heard that joblessness among youth in Toronto—Canada’s commercial and economic centre—is nearly as rampant as in the chronic unemployment hubs in the Atlantic provinces. It’s about two percentage points above the provincial average, and almost five percentage points above the national average. For young recent immigrants in Toronto, the unemployment rate climbs to 30 per cent, bringing the total number of unemployed youth in the GTHA to roughly 83,000.

“That’s a striking number,” says Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of Civic Action, a Toronto-based non-profit tasked with tackling social challenges within the city. “That’s a lot of youth that are not plugged in, and a lot of talent that’s not being utilized.”

Civic Action started focusing on youth unemployment about two years ago, partnering with the provincial government and private companies on a long-term initiative called Escalator aimed at connecting local employers with young job-seekers. “We knew this wasn’t a new problem,” says Palvetzian, “but it was on the rise.”

In fact, Toronto youth unemployment has been trending upward since the early 2000s, reaching its peak at 21 per cent in 2012 before falling to the current 18.1 per cent.

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