By Mike Brito.
Some recent numbers coming out from Statistics Canada show that unemployment rates across the country are reaching levels above 17% for people between the ages of 15-24. This is more than double the national unemployment rate from 2011, which was around 7.5%. In Ontario, the numbers are slightly lower, but are still above 15% for youth 15-24. According to Nancy Schaefer, president of the Toronto based non-profit organization Youth Employment Services, “The permanent, well-paying jobs that you can count on just aren’t there. So young people, even if they’re able to get something, are taking part-time work, or piecemeal work, or contract work. “
Often these unemployment levels are attributed to changing dynamics specific to Canada including the recent elimination of mandatory retirement and larger numbers of “baby boomers” hanging on to jobs. Some have pointed out that laid-off workers are competing with youth for an increasingly smaller pool of jobs to distribute amongst workers. The reality of the current situation is that this is part of a larger worldwide trend, in particular amongst Europe and North America where the Global Recession of 2008 has contributed to an increase in youth unemployment that has reached levels as high as 50% in Spain and Greece. According to Tom Zizys of the Metcalf Foundation based here in Toronto, “in times of recession, youth are the first to go and the last to be rehired.”
The rioting that occurred across England last summer was sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan, many observers have connected the uprisings that started in London but quickly spread, to the high-levels of unemployment amongst young people in that country, where rates are over 20% for people aged 16-24. According to police, the rioters were almost all under 20, mostly born in the 1990’s with the youngest arrested being 11 years old. Research conducted after the uprisings has also shown that the districts with the highest rates of youth unemployment were the most effected, and that most of the participating youth were from low-income neighbourhoods and public housing where employment prospects for youth are low.
Across Europe there has been similar trends in levels of unemployment, the EU reports their youth unemployment rate as 22.4%. Greece and Spain have some of the highest levels, both with rates above 50%. In Spain, young people also took to the streets last year in a movement called “Los Indiganados”, or the indignant ones. This movement opposed high levels of unemployment as well as protested banks, bankers, capitalism, welfare cuts and the entire Spanish political system.