Canada's underemployed youth slow to recover in post-recession: study

October 4, 2012

OTTAWA—The ability of Canada’s young workers to find stable, well-paid, and meaningful work is increasingly under threat, says a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report, by CCPA research associate Karen Foster, looks at trends in youth employment. The unemployment rate for Canadians aged 15-24 has grown from 12.9% in 2001 to 14.1% in 2011—relatively low compared to other OECD countries.

However, the proportion of employees under 30 working non-permanent jobs has nearly doubled, from 6.9% in 1997 to 11.6% in 2011, while the proportion of employees aged 30 and older in these types of jobs has only grown from 4.0% to 5.7% during the same time period.

“Young people who have faced long spells of unemployment—or underemployment in precarious, low-wage, no-benefits jobs—struggle to ‘catch up’ with older workers and peers, and face persistently lower earnings,” says Foster. “Today’s young workers will likely never afford the standard of living of their parents and even their grandparents.”

According to the report, although young workers with post-secondary degrees are more likely to be in the labour force than older workers with college or university degrees, they are also more likely to be unemployed or precariously employed in non-permanent jobs.

Young workers without post-secondary degrees are even worse off. Less than one-quarter have full-time permanent jobs, compared to a third of older workers with comparable educational qualifications.

“Regardless of whether they have post-secondary qualifications, the young workers who are overrepresented in the unemployed, part-time and non-permanent workforce will likely endure the negative effects of un- and underemployment for years to come,” Foster says.

The report notes that there was a slight increase in union coverage among young workers from 1997 to 2011, particularly those without post-secondary degrees or diplomas. This is in marked contrast to the steep declines in unionization among older workers.


More Than a Temporary Problem? Youth Employment and Un(der)employment in Canada is available on the CCPA website:

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.