OTTAWA–To mark this year’s International Youth Day, August 12th, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) have joined forces to draw attention to the many challenges facing Canadian youth today.
The unemployment rate for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 now stands at 14.1%-a level almost twice that of the overall national average. The figure still does not account for the thousands of youth who are underemployed and often working part-time jobs at wages too low to cover the basic costs of living. In fact, in July alone, 22,200 full-time jobs for Canadians 15–24 were eliminated, while 24,600 part-time jobs were created. The problem is amplified by a growing number of Canadians, 55 and older, who either cannot afford to retire or have had to re-enter the labour market, thus making it even more difficult for young workers to find good, first-time jobs. Without decent, full-time work many young Canadians simply cannot get a good start.
Many young Canadians also rely on public post-secondary education to acquire the skills and training they need for today’s job market. However, as a result of cuts to public funding in the past three decades, more and more of the costs of post-secondary education have been downloaded onto the backs of students and their families through massive increases in tuition fees. Average tuition fees increased four-fold between 1990 and 2010, forcing students to take on unprecedented levels of student debt and preventing thousands of youth from pursuing education. Young Canadians are not only entering the labour market at some of the highest unemployment levels in 30 years, but also with levels of debt higher than ever before.
Well-funded and high-quality public services are essential for youth as they transition into both post-secondary education and into the workforce. Employment programs, child care, health care, shelters, and affordable education are critical to young Canadians reaching their full potential as students and as workers.
They are also essential in ensuring that all youth have equal opportunities regardless of their socio-economic background. However, across the country these very services are facing cuts at a time when youth need them more than ever.
Aboriginal youth are especially vulnerable to cuts to public services. As Canada’s fastest growing demographic, Aboriginal youth are essential to Canada’s future economic stability and growth. However, cuts to social programs and the unfair cap on the Aboriginal student grants program, the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, mean that many Aboriginal youth cannot receive the training and educational programs they need to secure decent work.
On this day, the CLC and the CFS call for adequately funded and high-quality public services in order to make sure that youth in Canada have a fair chance.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.
Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca
The Canadian Federation of Students unites more that one-half million students in all ten provinces. The Canadian Federation of Students and its predecessor organizations have represented students in Canada since 1927.
Web site: www.cfs-fcee.ca
Roxanne Dubois, National Chairperson,
Canadian Federation of Students: 613-232-7394
Karina Sihota, Young Workers Representative,
Canadian Labour Congress: 613-521-3400 x 234