Robert D. Onley
Originally published in The Huffington Post on November 18, 2014.
The recent remarks by Bank of Canada’s Governor Stephen Poloz, that young people struggling to find work should consider “working for free,” were highly controversial. Particularly so for nearly 50 percent of the world’s population under the age of 30, many of whom are struggling to find honest, paid work, just to survive.
Ultimately, Poloz’s statements are not part of the solution, and that is a problem.
On November 15 and 16, the G20 world leaders convened in Brisbane, Australia to discuss global economic issues. One major agenda item this year was the youth unemployment challenge. It is high time for real action.
Currently, the rate of youth unemployment is 14.5 percent in Canada. That is, more than 411,000 young people under 25 were unemployed this past spring. In contrast, among Canadians aged 25 to 54, the unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent.
The pronounced difference between the two percentages is quite alarming. Moreover, young people are also more affected by economic recessions because firms initially respond to financial distress by stopping recruitment rather than dismissing experienced staff.
Youth are almost more likely to take on contract work and take part in unpaid work experiences. It is essential to not only improve employment but to also promote decent employment since unpaid work leads to inequality.
Young people also face a higher risk of unemployment when compared to older workers, even under optimal economic conditions. This is the case since there is often a delay between the end of their academic career and their first job. The numbers of youth unemployment are on the rise globally, and Canadian youth are no exception.
This past July, the Young Diplomats of Canada sent a delegation of Canadian youth to attend the G20’s youth engagement group conference, the 2014 Y20 Summit, in Sydney, Australia. At the Y20, these bright, young Canadian leaders engaged with other G20 youth representatives to discuss and prioritize additional strategies to reduce youth unemployment.
Online negotiations preceding the Y20 allowed delegates to align on priority focal points including:
- supporting youth entrepreneurship,
- improving labour mobility,
- protecting youth jobs, and;
- promoting decent employment.
At the conference, these priorities were further discussed and fleshed out. The delegate’s official declaration and the Y20 Final Communiqué can be read here. Y20 delegates gave serious consideration in determining the Y20 perspective and the global voice of the youth, which, as mentioned, stands at nearly half of the world’s population.
This weekend, G20 leaders should levy the same attention to half the planet.
The Young Diplomats of Canada and the Canadian Y20 Delegation, in collaboration with our global partners, call on the G20 leaders to adopt the Y20 Final Communiqué as a commitment of the G20, in whole or in part, and to pursue the following key policy objectives to help solve the problem of youth unemployment.
At the national level and in order to prevent the realization of a “lost generation” and stimulate the national and global economy, the Canadian Y20 Delegation calls upon the Government of Canada to:
- Embed entrepreneurial learning into all levels of provincial and territorial education to encourage youth entrepreneurship across Canada, especially for young women and girls.
- Increase accessibility of federal and provincial government grants and services for young entrepreneurs by making basic information easily accessible to applicants.
- Incentivize entrepreneurship through mentorship and coaching and stronger child-care services to promote greater gender equality in the Canadian workforce.
- Encourage a Canada-wide free-trade agreement between provinces to ease interprovincial trade barriers and standardize regulations.
At the global level, the Canadian Y20 Delegation urges G20 leaders to:
- Improve economic incentives for employers hiring youth in full-time positions or in structured and paid internships through collaboration between governments, banks and the private sector.
- Promote political and social engagement by developing and strengthening mechanisms through which youth can participate in and influence decision-making processes. This includes institutionalising youth engagement forums at the local, regional and national levels, including youth representation in public policy deliberations.
The solution to the problem of youth unemployment is part of the greater economic action plan that Canada and other nations are undertaking. To Canada’s credit, at the federal and provincial level there have been some youth-specific programs targeted at reducing unemployment in the demographic, such as the Ontario Youth Employment Fund or Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. However, more must be done.
As Canadian young leaders, we urge the Canadian representatives — our Prime Minister and finance minister — to make genuine coordinated commitments with other G20 nations to attempt to solve this problem.
The stakes are high and the time for global leadership on youth unemployment is now.
The 2014 Canadian Y20 Summit Delegation: Max Seunik, Olivia Labonté Claire Glossop, Moses Gashirabake, David Lawless