Two recent studies reveal a young, educated workforce that is suffering from Canada’s weak economy. Not only are a substantial number of young people failing to find work that matches their education – and young people have never been as well educated – but they are also unduly stressed by their inability to secure satisfactory jobs.
While we can hope that the economy improves and that these well educated workers are swept up by the growth, there is still a need to ensure the educational offerings of postsecondary institutions have a reasonable correlation to the likelihood of employment.
Canadian youth should not be prepared for a workplace where their skills are not needed. That leads to a high rate of job dissatisfaction; if employees’ range of talents are not put to use, the quality of their work will suffer.
A report released at the end of October by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada concludes that many young people leaving postsecondary institutions are securing jobs in sectors where their learned skills are not being developed into professional abilities.
Though the causes of underemployment are not yet fully understood, the report does find that “some 24.6 per cent of all youths holding a university degree who were continuously employed full-time in 2005 were effectively underutilized”; this was especially true for young people with a bachelor’s degree. It also mentions that “one in 10 youth workers holding a graduate degree were likewise employed in occupations not requiring a university degree.”
Sun Life Financial Inc.’s annual health survey helps illuminate the consequences: Ninety per cent of people aged 18 to 24 say they are feeling excessive levels of anxiety.
“Canada’s weak economic recovery – now in its fourth year since the financial crisis of 2008 – is a driver of remarkably high stress levels, particularly among young adults across the country,” the Sun Life study says. This in turn has contributed to a marked increase in mental health-related long-term disability claims.
There is something to be said for education for education’s sake, but there has to be a reasonable prospect of transforming that knowledge into productive work. A strong economy cannot be assured, but there ought to be some vigilance over the job-prospect claims made for the offerings of postsecondary institutions.