Skip to main content

While young people have always struggled to get established, economists and labour experts say this time is different. Those in their 20s today are facing far more hurdles than many in their parents’ generation, and those difficulties are likely to linger for years, even decades, with profound economic consequences for Canada. There is diminished job security, the growth of temp work, rising costs for food, tuition and housing and record debt levels. To top it off, young people entering the work force today are far less likely to retire with a company pension than their parents’ generation. Editor's note: Acadia University is in Wolfville, N.S. An earlier version of a caption in this gallery contained incorrect information.

1 of 6

15%: Current jobless rate among people between the ages of 15 and 24, highest level in nearly two years.

Ronald Victorino, 23, studied materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto, which included a 16-month internship at a nanomaterials manufacturing company.
He would like to use his bachelor of applied science degree to land a management consultant position in his field.
Since graduating in June, he has sent out more than 30 job applications, which yielded two interviews.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

2 of 6

19.6%: Broader measure of youth unemployment that includes discouraged job seekers and involuntary part-timers – the highest level for any September in 15 years.

Amelia Zheng, 25, moved to Canada from China to study international business law on a full scholarship at the University of Montreal.
After completing her education, finding work has been difficult even with a master's degree and the fact that she can speak three languages.
She has been searching for two months. Ms. Zheng wants to stay in Canada to have "a better life," but may have to return to China if it takes too long to find work.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

3 of 6

$500,000: How much less an average defined-contribution pension plan is worth for an employee at retirement age, compared with a traditional defined-benefit pension plan.

Alix Kemp, 25, grew up in a middle class family that moved to Indiana when she was young.
She got a partial scholarship at a U.S. university, but couldn't afford to foot the rest of the bill on her own, so she moved to Edmonton to attend the University of Alberta.
Anticipating the tough job market, she started looking for work before she graduated with a bachelor's degree in history last fall. Ms. Kemp worked two part-time retail jobs to make ends meet until she landed her current position working for a business magazine in Alberta.

John Ulan/The Globe and Mail

4 of 6

$74,100: Average household debt among Canadians between 18 and 25 years of age in 2011, a record, compared with $44,500 in 2002.

Patrick Imbeau is tired of the common complaint that his generation is a bunch of spoiled whiners. He held down three jobs while working on his PhD and the debt still piled up after tuition prices doubled during the time he was at school.
The 29-year-old, who gave up his plans to become a professor while partway through his doctorate, has $30,000 in student debt. That means traditional rites of passage into adulthood – buying a house, having kids, building a nest egg – are all being delayed.
“With this kind of debt, I don’t have the money to go out and put a down payment on a house,” he says.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 6

28.6%: Rate among 20- to 24-year-olds in temporary jobs in the first eight months of this year, a steady increase since 1997, when it was 21.5 per cent.

Two summers in a row of weak job markets have unravelled Justin MacGillivray’s plans. The 22-year-old is finishing his degree in finance at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. He sent out about 150 job applications this past summer, but never landed full-time work. Instead, he did a few short-term stints at a restaurant.
The summer before was just as bad. “It wasn’t the hours nor the pay I’d wanted,” he says.
Mr. MacGillivray has tossed out old expectations and is now considering farming. “I have very little hope in finding pretty much anything right now,” he says.

Paul Darrow/The Globe and Mail

6 of 6

May, 2010: The month Stephanie Wilson graduated and landed a job in her field.

Stephanie Wilson, 25, had hoped to be a lawyer or veterinarian one day. She stumbled into engineering when a UBC program opened up in her hometown in the Okanagan area of British Columbia.
She was one of few females to graduate in mechanical engineering in May, 2010. She landed a job at engineering firm Hatch Ltd. in the very same month.
It wasn’t the career path she’d dreamed of as a girl, but she loves it. “I love the diversity. No day is the same as the day before. And there’s really opportunities to go everywhere.”

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Report an error Editorial code of conduct