Youth in Canada and globally are being unjustly forced to bear the heavy burden of the capitalist crisis. While corporations worldwide continue to maximize profits, youth are suffering record unemployment rates that leave them susceptible to poverty, a lack of housing and education, and an increased risk of violence and conflict with the law.
The unemployment rate for youth, aged 15 to 34, in Canada reached a high of 14.1% in July 2011, which is two times higher than the overall unemployment rate for all Canadians. Youth are also more susceptible to precarious forms of labour which are non-secure, temporary, or part-time, with few or no benefits, than the rest of the population. Additionally, students are challenged with increasing costs of living and obscene tuition fees that are over 300% higher than they were ten years ago, creating unique challenges for our young generation of workers.
The message from the government and employers alike is that youth don’t deserve access to education and good jobs. This message was made crystal clear when the Conservative government butchered the Summer Career Placement Program in 2006. This was a partnership between the federal government and employers where the government provided subsidies for employers to hire students over the summer. The program provided summer employment for over 50,000 students. The program has subsequently been re-branded as the Canada Summer Jobs Program and has suffered significant funding cuts paired with a more restrictive criteria for organizations to qualify. The result is 25,000 less jobs than were provided previously. Clearly, the Conservative government is far from concerned with the well-being of our youth and their access to decent jobs.
Employers have demonstrated similar sentiments with their efforts to exploit young workers with lower wages, less stable work, and fewer, or no, benefits than before. A prime example is the two-tiered system that Canada Post has imposed on its workers, and one that was enthusiastically supported by the federal Conservative government. Moving forward, all new employees will start at a lower wage rate with smaller pay increments, fewer and less adequate benefits, and less job security. With the implementation of the two-tiered system, all current temporary employees saw their wages reduced as well. This is an attack on young workers who are more likely to be temporary workers or newly entering the workforce. Canada Post claims that cutbacks are necessary due to declining mail volume and diminished revenues; however, only a year before, they claimed a record $281-million profit.
Why are young workers being put on the back burner and being deprived of liveable wages and good jobs? One factor is that in a competitive and increasingly specialized job market, older workers are forced to take lower paying jobs that they are overqualified for and which would be ideally suited to younger workers and students. Another contributing factor is that as older workers see their pensions and benefit packages being threatened, they are also less likely to retire. Both scenarios leave less room for young workers to enter the labour force. Workers who have contributed to the labour force for better portions of their lives deserve livable pensions and retirement benefits; they should not have to work 10 or even 20 years past the acceptable retirement age. Sound labour laws and policies that allow for this would make room for new waves of young workers and would help to alleviate youth unemployment. The fight for young workers’ rights is also the fight for older workers’ rights!
At the end of the day it all comes down to profit for the bosses. It is beneficial and profitable for employers to force a generation into unemployment and poverty because this same generation will be more willing (out of necessity) to work less secure jobs for less pay. It is further profitable for government and financial institutions to force a generation into student debt and reap the interest. Youth unemployment is in the best interest of capitalism, so we should join the fight for socialism in order to fight for better jobs and a better life!