From the Quebec student protests to reports of youth unemployment, there are no shortage of stories suggesting young people are facing tough financial times in Canada. But are things really worse, or are young people today spoiled? We asked readers of all generations to weigh in.
- Charlotte Bumstead, 24
- Bill Moses, 71
- Lynsey Grosfield, 21
- Hillary, 22
- Warren Quirk, 25
- Nyla Joseph, 18
- Wendy May, 54
- Kristin Taylor, 29
- Dan Wurster, 69
- Kevin Annett, 29
- Anthony Britneff, 64
- Allison Corey, 19
- Kerri Waite, 26
- Dick Haas, 68
- Grace, 29
- Daniel Boccaccio, 24
- Hazel Trego, 62
- Karen, 15
- Margaret Anne McHugh, 59
- Rita, 23
- Brenda Dusome
- John Laframboise, 26
- Tim Stobbs, 34
- Mike Fancie, 24
- Alexandra Esposito, 56
- Brian Belman, 20
- Paul Lantz, 58
- Yiorgos Boudouris, 28
- Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, 60
- Bert Brandon, 26
- Andy Hawkins, 42
- Jordan, 20
- Damian Salter, 37
- Luke K, 20
Charlotte Bumstead, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Charlotte Bumstead, 24
Writer, Newmarket, Ont.
The debt loads and high costs of living are only part of the problem facing twenty-somethings today. The greatest challenge is finding a decent, full-time job with a salary that allows us to pay off more debt than we’re creating for ourselves. And I’m not even suggesting this decent job with a livable salary be in the same field of work as our degree has prepared us for — the chances of that happening today are comparable to winning the lottery. Still, on behalf of my generation, we don’t want your pity. Go ahead and call us “lazy and entitled,” we’re happy to prove you wrong. Just because it’s a struggle being a twenty-something these days doesn’t mean we won’t persevere. And we will remember the lessons learned so one day we can prepare our own children for a scary, unpredictable economy. I’m confident we can still make our dreams come true — we’ll just have to work a little harder for it.
Bill Moses, 71, responds to a story about youth unemployment. Picasa
Bill Moses, 71
retired, Owen Sound, Ont.
In the late '50s, a 16-year-old friend of mine left school at lunchtime and started that afternoon working in a local factory making wooden TV cabinets. By the time I graduated from university he had a house, a wife, two kids, a new car, a boat and a travel trailer. He had ended up working at General Motors spray painting locomotives, a skill he learned from painting TV cabinets. I don't see many of these kind of stories nowadays. As well, when I graduated, I had enough job offers that I didn't have to bother with interviews. Having no career plans I just took the highest salary. My total school debt in 1964 was $300, which I never paid off.
Lynsey Grosfield, a Globe and Mail reader, reacts to a story about youth unemployment.
Lynsey Grosfield, 21
The classes graduating post-2007 were not prepared for what would happen to the economy while they were being educated. Personally, going in to my education with $92,000 in scholarships, completing four unpaid internships, and working part time the whole time led me to burn out in my last semester: I have deferred graduating and my scholarships until the job climate is better, and I am also leaving Montreal to do so. I resent being called entitled after four years of 80-hour workweeks, and $14,000 of debt accrued while investing in unpaid employment experience. To the generation that has secure pensions, please don't rag on us for being scared that we won't. It's inhuman to simply write off a whole generation as lazy when ours is the one disproportionately dealing with incredibly uncertain economic futures. I wouldn't say things are uniquely hard in there here and now--after all, there were generations that went to war, or generations that had their land stolen from them by settlers, or generations that struggled with Neanderthals over access to land. Believe me, I'm not lacking any sense of historical perspective, and I am certainly not looking through the myopic teenage goggles we in my age cohort are all accused of wearing. All we ask for is some empathy, and also some change, because the situation we inherited is simply untenable.
Hillary, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Environmental engineering technologist - water resources, Halifax
I graduated from a nationally recognized engineering trade with distinction. I had two co-ops with reputable businesses, valid work experience and motivation to get out into the world and use my skills! Wasn't I disappointed to have to continue working at McDonald's for eight months after I graduated, despite the countless interviews and selling my soul. I was informed by the school that this was a booming industry, with tons of opportunity for a young grad. Only two of my classmates found employment right out of school, but they had to travel across the country to get it and the jobs weren't really related to our field. Am I willing to work 60 hour weeks? Yup. Do I want $50,000 to start? Nope. I just want the job in the trade I paid thousands for. Seems reasonable enough. How many plumbers do you know that are receptionists?
Warren Quirk, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Warren Quirk, 25
business analyst, Vancouver
Too many people cite the economy or the government as a reason why they don’t have a job. I think this is nonsense. I admit I am extremely privileged in that I went to university and my parents had the foresight when they were young to put money aside for me. I am eternally grateful to them for this gift and as such I made the best use of my time there. I majored in a “useful” discipline; I got co-op jobs in the summer; and when I was finished I got out of my parents' hair ASAP. I feel like this was my responsibility to them given all they did for me. And for all those kids who are still leaching off of their parent’s bank account years after graduation, I say: Grow up. You are an adult now, start acting like it.
Nyla Joseph, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Nyla Joseph, 18
Student, New Hamburg, Ont.
My grandfather left school in eighth grade to work and support his family, working on local farms and driving trucks until he became a trucker full time. My grandmother was able to finish high school but had to stay home and take care of her family when her mother became ill. She eventually became a secretary in a doctor's office and learned basic nursing skills. Neither of them had a university education and they easily found jobs. I would be happy to work building furniture or doing manual labour but these days those kinds of jobs are few and far between; much is automated or not in this country. Being a post-secondary student is now necessary for basic jobs like secretarial work. If I had a choice between having a job in which I learned the skills to gain higher positions in that field or learning those same skills in school, I would choose the job. Unfortunately this choice is non-existent and higher education is mandatory for jobs that aren't worth the cost of education.
Wendy May, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Wendy May, 54
co-ordinator of purchasing, Victoria
When I left school in Calgary as a single parent without graduating at age 17, there were numerous jobs. Everyone worked - there was plenty of work and lots of jobs that paid very well. I bought my first townhouse in Calgary when I was 18. I was a single parent and qualified for a subsidized mortgage. Who has that opportunity today? I have three children who may never have the opportunity to qualify for a mortgage and own a house here in Victoria, just about the most expensive market in Canada. We were the part of the privileged generation. Most of the people I went to school with are the ones that own their own home, the recreational property, the fancy trailers and RVs and can look forward to inheriting significant amounts of money from their own parents. My parents, like many, bought a brand new home in Calgary in 1957 for $5,000. My mother didn't work and my father worked at a meat packing plant. Can anyone do that today? Their generation is the one that benefited the most by rising house prices and have been able to fund their old age.
Kristin Taylor, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Kristin Taylor, 29
corporate communications, Barrie, Ont.
I’m 29, just about to finish paying off my student debt. The only thing I think I’m entitled to is a celebration for having accomplished what I have thus far. Sure, I’m behind some of my friends on things like owning a home, but I’m ahead in other ways that are just as important. We place so much emphasis on financial wealth – on what we do or don’t have. On what we can or cannot afford. But I believe I am part of a generation that asks itself all of the time: "What other things make life rich?” Spoiled? Living with great expectations? Maybe a small few. The rest of us are cognizant of the fact that we get what we put in.
Dan Wurster, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Dan Wurster, 69
occupational hygienist, Bedford, N.S.
After I graduated in my 20s, I moved to Noranda, Que., with nothing except what I could get into my car, which was not paid for. I had a wife and a cat and spoke no French. But there was a job there, so I moved. The starting wage was less than $1,000 per month. I worked as a janitor during my years at university so I ended up with no loans. Nothing is harder today than it was then. The difference is that the modern generation expects more. Which of them does not have a smart phone and must spend hours per day texting?
Kevin Annett, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Kevin Annett, 29
accountant, Fredericton, NB
When my parents bought their house, they spent $40,000 for a bungalow with roughly one acre of land. I recently purchased a similar home but paid $200,000. Given the interest rates in the early 80s, my parents had a mortgage of approximately $1,000/month. My mortgage is also approximately $1,000/month. When you consider how long it takes me to earn $1,000 and how long it took my parents to earn that same $1,000 in the early 80s, It doesn't seem like I am worst off. With that being said, I do believe my generation have it harder today in many other ways. Young graduates today are graduating from post secondary institutions with mounds of student debt and, let's face it, not so great job prospects.
Anthony Britneff, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment
Anthony Britneff, 64
The opportunity for a student to earn much more than a minimum wage doing a summer job is far less than was the case in the 1960s and 70s. Parents have less disposable income to support their children at university – eroded middle class. Consequently students are forced to incur astronomical levels of debt, which will take decades to pay down. The rules around obtaining student loans are far more restrictive than they were in the 70s. Job opportunities after graduation are poor and entry-level salaries are low.
Allison Corey, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Allison Corey, 19
I had a very difficult time finding a job. I'm a political science major with a women and gender studies minor. My résumé has a lot of experience on it, from volunteering to customer service to working with special needs children. I didn't even get a call back from the dozens of places I applied to. I applied to many positions from government jobs to grocery stores. I had my résumé edited by professionals and everything. It is very discouraging as a youth today who is getting educated and needs to pay for schooling. The job market, or lack thereof, is making it almost impossible for students and youth today. The youth of today are the future of tomorrow and I can guarantee we don't want our future in loads of debt.
Kerri Waite, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Kerri Waite, 26
Recent grad, unemployed, North Vancouver
I ended up going back to school for Business Management thinking I could get relevant skills while the economy was still slow. I quit work, busted my butt, and racked up more debt. Now, again freshly out, I've been applying to multiple jobs, all with varying wages, experience levels, full time and part time and I'm still coming up with nothing. Even the organization that I volunteer for and have made a name for myself with, can only offer me an internship. Unfortunately, an internship, a full-time job at Starbucks or your grocery store, it doesn't pay the bills. I've worked three jobs at once to pay rent, worked 60 hours a week just to get by. I went back to school so I didn't have to do that. And please don't call me lazy, because I'm not, and I don't live with my parents. I worked to put myself through university. I haven't stopped, I won't stop, but something's gotta give.
Dick Haas, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Dick Haas, 68
financial adviser, Acton, Ont.
I do think young adults have an attitude of entitlement. Back in the days when I entered university (1965, at age 22, as a new immigrant) I had a full-time job ($65/week) and took the whole BA at night, which took me seven years until graduation. In 1968 I worked 40 hours at Nortel and 40 hours at Expo. I had three nights left for university. No time to spend money. Today's children leave the house in their early twenties and expect to move right away into a new home (that took their parents 25 years to pay off) and that is not realistic. What is wrong with a basement apartment when you start out your life? I think the baby boomer parents have spoiled their kids and thus young adults feel entitled to having the best - with funds from parents and governments. Not realistic in my mind. Neither is the prevailing: "fly now, pay later". That is the whole debt crisis.
Grace, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
program co-ordinator, Ottawa
I think youth do have it tough today, but we are living in different times than our boomer parents. We can either sit here and complain about it (and most likely remain jobless or underemployed), or come up with solutions to our problems. I am proof that you can find a job with an Arts degree, but you have to be creative and look outside of the box. My advice to young Arts graduates who are looking for a job today is to research organizations based on your interests, hobbies and values instead of sending your résumé to all of the big corporations in the hopes of earning a huge salary right off the bat. Be willing to take that admin or entry level job that pays 30,000. Having a meagre salary that is steady is better than no salary or minimum wage shift work at a fast food joint.
Daniel Boccaccio, 24
student/policy analyst, Ottawa
One of the discussions my parents and I have are how times have changed. It now has become a chicken vs. egg scenario. Back in the day, the baby boomers were able to start careers at the age of 18 with no university education because those jobs were available. Those jobs also did not require continuing education. With the baby boomers remaining in the labour force, the jobs are not available for the youth of today. In addition, the value of education has become inflated. A high school degree 30 years ago could get you multiple jobs and put you on the path of a great career. Today, it gets you $10.25 an hour working at McDonald's.
Hazel Trego, 62
counsellor/consultant, Campbell River, B.C.
A simple yes or no doesn't do the issue justice. We have created a pampered period of adolescence that now stretches from 12 years old to early 20s or later, with some feeling very anxious about becoming self-supporting. Being pampered and prevented from learning basic life skills does not help anyone. Necessary trades training or academic education is expensive and accessing funding is ridiculously bureaucratic with financial aid rules designed to exclude. Simultaneously we have a labour shortage and need to increase immigration to fill those jobs.
Karen, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to an article about youth unemployment.
student, Mississauga, Ont.
University graduates with degrees find themselves jobless and without any prospect of a job that pays higher than minimum wage. I learned in history class that back in the 50s, people with only a high school diploma could get jobs easily and earn just as much as university grads with degrees today. That's pretty sad considering that today grads pay more than three times the tuition back in the 50s and end up with an average of $27,000 in student loan debt. Men and women who are supposed to be young, independent professionals are obligated to still live with their parents because of the amount of debt they accumulate for their education. What's the point of paying for a $50,000 post-secondary education if a young professional has to become a sitting duck, living at home with no job prospects?
Margaret Anne McHugh, 59
adult education, Halifax
When I was young, I went to college and then university and, although both my husband and I had student loans, we were able to pay them off (living on our own and not with parents) along with eventually having two kids before we were 40. We went to university with a baby, and later two, and had daycare subsidy that covered most of the cost. With two people working at minimum wage in N.S. today, daycare subsidy is very low, making it hard for two people to work without family support. You cannot get anywhere today without a university degree, but if you have a baby when young, being able to afford to attend a post secondary program slips away quickly. I have no idea how this generation makes it at all!
Rita, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to an article about youth unemployment.
logo designer, Toronto
As a graduate with distinction from one of Canada's top universities, I definitely know how to work hard, how to bring results, but no one cares since they would much rather hire that 30-year-old with six years experience who lost his/her job two years ago. Is it too much to ask to expect to find a decent job after I graduate? My option? Go back to school. Spend more money, have no guarantee that it will all pay off at the end. My peers who graduated with me in the same year are either working not in their profession or have returned to school. No one demands anything and no one feels entitled to anything. All are just trying to get by somehow. Entitlement? To what?
Brenda Dusome, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
non-profit manager, Vancouver
I was the third born of eight children and wanted to go to university. My parents had no money to send me, so I applied for and got students loans. I went to the Richard Ivey School of Business at UWO. My tuition was $670 per year ... now it's $22,943! When I graduated university, all of my students loans except $2,900 were forgiven by the government. Companies came onto the university campus and every business school graduate who wanted a job got one, and they were all junior management positions with mobility. Our kids definitely have it harder than we did on every front. And it's not due to laziness or an attitude of entitlement. The environment is just tougher!
John Laframboise, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment
John Laframboise, 26
cashier, Revelstoke, B.C.
I do believe there is some merit to the 'lazy and entitled' theory; after all, we were raised by the coddled baby boomers. I have several friends who are smart and able, yet still live with their parents and hardly work. Why? Because the parents make them comfortable. I can attest to this. If I wasn't an independent person, I would probably still live at home because my parents actually don't want me to leave home. They actually want to coddle and keep things easy for me. Personally, feeling sorry for myself or dwelling on negatives is a quick way to nowhere. I am in my 20s, I have a bachelor of commerce degree, yet I am currently happily underemployed. The last six years have proven to me that even on an underemployed income you can still build wealth in a meaningful way.
Tim Stobbs, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Tim Stobbs, 34
Two of the main changes for costs have been education and housing. Post-secondary education has long been sold as required to get ahead, but the costs are much higher today. Not to mention a much harder job market since boomers are delaying retirement plans and keeping their jobs. University tuition has almost doubled since I left until now which increases student debt levels and reduces the return on that investment during their lifetimes since they often can’t get a job in their field after graduation. Meanwhile, housing costs in just the last six years have doubled in Regina, which is well past any wage increases. So yes, overall the youth of today are facing significantly more financial hardship on starting out in life. Yet like in any group there are those who feel entitled and don't have a firm grasp on what they should expect. Yet as we get older we tend to get more cynical, so don't dash the dreams of youth yet (just remember how naive you were as a youngster). They will learn how to keep those expectations in check as they get older too.
Mike Fancie, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Mike Fancie, 24
federal employee, Ottawa
The cost of living is increasing disproportionately to salary. Tuition fees are skyrocketing in places like Ontario, leaving a generation of youth with what are essentially mortgage-sized debt loads. Try saving for the future with the national average of about $30,000 in student debt. This debate should not be about who "had it harder," but rather how we can all work to maximize public benefit from our social programs. Access to education for today's youth, just like access to retirement funding like OAS and CPP for today's baby boomers, are under attack. We need to work together to ensure that we look after the well-being of our community as a whole.
Alexandra Esposito, 56
financial planner, Aurora, Ont.
Many parents and kids seem to turn their noses up at colleges - so consequently there are so many kids with a BA, BSW or BSc but no skill sets that can go into the work force. Many kids are used to very comfortable environments and would like the same in their new digs. My kids were shocked when I told them that their dad and I chose not to have a car when we were first married so we could save money for a downpayment. How did we get around? They were so surprised to hear that we used public transit and if we needed a car for a weekend we would rent one. The fact is that there are a lot of folks having to work later, which is not freeing up space in the job market.
Brian Belman, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Brian Belman, 20
To call my generation lazy and entitled is unfair to the thousands of students in Ontario struggling to afford their education. Right now as a university student in Ontario, I am paying more in tuition than any generation before me, both in real dollars and in relation to government funding. When my parents were in university the government contributed closer to 80 per cent of education costs; today that has dropped to nearly 50 per cent, with students expected to make up the rest in tuition. Not only has the burden of costs been shifted, but tuition has increased annually well beyond the inflation rate. More students than ever are juggling part-time work with their education in order to afford their studies. Today’s students are in fact quantitatively worse off than previous generations: we are not lazier, and we do not simply feel entitled.
Paul Lantz responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Paul Lantz, 58
lawyer, Moosonee, Ont.
Tuition at colleges and universities has increased far faster than inflation and wages for student summer jobs. It's harder to find jobs. A large percentage of articling students cannot find positions; whenever we advertise for articling positions in our remote community, we are inundated by applications from exceptional candidates.
Yiorgos Boudouris, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Yiorgos Boudouris, 28
business strategist, Calgary
Rather than describe this generation as lazy or entitled, the correct description would be to see this generation as achieving and equally demanding. Unfortunately, our society thinks that asking "why" is a bad thing, that you are questioning authority, or disrespecting the past. This is not what this generation is doing. They are asking why because they value idealism and are trying to map their daily activities back to their personal goals. Goals that see the world as a whole - not in pieces. A world without a boy's club, but with a community of equals. And a world where our futures don't seem so certain, despite all the possibilities around us.
Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, 60
The easy answer is that people in their 20s are entitled, have had helicopter parents hovering over them, telling them they are "exceptional," giving them the latest iPhone as soon as it is released -- unlike that old saw: in "the good old days," when parents gave tough love and made you work for things. But that's not what we see as the issue when teaching students at universities the "soft skills" they need to succeed: how to connect, how to build a diverse and supportive network, how to make a memorable impression -- in other words, how to distinguish yourself from all the other smart people out there! The majority of them don't feel comfortable in these social interactions. While it is convenient to point the finger at those long-suffering working-parent families, that's not the point. These soft skills are the skills that society as a whole has forgotten.
Bert Brandon, 26, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Bert Brandon, 26
I'm 26, graduated from a four-year sport management program at Brock University, had two not ideal jobs in two years, low paying, not in my field of study and decided I needed a drastic change. So, I booked a one-way ticket to Thailand and found a job teaching English. I found life at home a bit of a struggle, hard to save, long hours and little time off. I get paid less in Southern Thailand but things are cheaper, way more time off and just a different lifestyle that I am quickly becoming addicted to. I have the rest of my life to be married and climb the ladder, so I'm trying to have as many great experiences and see as much of the world as I can before I decide it is time to come home.
Andy Hawkins, a Globe and Mail readers, responds to a question about youth unemployment.
Andy Hawkins, 42
IT technician, Moncton, N.B.
I don't think it's harder for young people in today's world, just different. They face different challenges than my generation. When I was a teenager, going to college or university wasn't something that everyone did. You had to be above average to get in and, as a result, your degree, no matter what it was in, set you apart from the crowd and gave you better chances. By cultivating a society where everyone can go on to higher education, those degrees are now more commonplace so employers can pick and choose. My parents' generation typically didn't buy their own homes until well into their thirties because they had to save for everything. Nowadays there is so much credit being handed out that nobody has to wait much for anything any more.
Young people tend to have a hard time finding employment because older generations occupy the majority of the decaying job market. Additionally, young people are sold diplomas regardless of their usefulness within the economy. This is a catastrophic failure of the educational institutions to provide meaningful education. To solve this problem we must educate young people to take their education into their own hands by throwing away the institutionalized aspect of the university or college and by recognizing that higher learning has become a business and not the innocent quest for knowledge that it is sugar-coated to be.
Damian Salter, a Globe and Mail reader, responds to a story about youth unemployment.
Damian Salter, 37
creative director, graphic design, Toronto
While a number of individual young people may not have their priorities straight, that should certainly not detract from concern over a number of pressing issues that have started and will continue to have significant impact on the standards of living expectations for future generations. The gap between the very rich and poor is at an all time high and stats show that the middle class is already catastrophically under pressure and in decline. While the state 're-evaluates' health care and education, these basic services suddenly become less accessible to the majority. The better paid jobs requiring a tertiary level education, will be out of reach of those aspiring to do better because the education required will be out of reach too. If the status quo stands, there is not much hope, and sadly the prognosis (no matter how whiney and annoying one my find the current student generation to be) is not one of prosperity.
Luke K, 20
insurance/student, Camrose, Alta.
Young people do have it harder today than other generations because of higher tuition prices across Canada, not just Montreal. As well, the Harper government's plan to bring double the amount of immigrants per year, instead of focusing on bettering Canadian citizens' education and apprenticeship programs is ridiculous. We are told to go to school so we can get a good job, but what they don't let us know is that after we get our degrees, we will be facing huge debts that we will have to repay and, depending on how long your degree takes to complete, we will have to compete with one million non-citizens for work.