Monday, February 08, 2016

Strangling Our Future


Youth unemployment is a problem world wide. Carol Goar reports that:

Our youth unemployment rate is 13 per cent. In Sweden, 19.4 per cent of young people are looking for work. In France, the youth jobless rate is 25.9 per cent. In Spain, it is 46 per cent. In Greece it is a staggering 48.6 per cent. (It is hard to get comparable statistics from Africa, where youth can mean anything from 12 to 30 years of age.)

The International Labour Organization -- which is sponsored by the UN -- is raising the profile of the problem:

Determined to provide impetus, the ILO launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth in New York this month. The UN’s 28 other agencies joined the campaign. “Today two out of every five young persons of working age are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t pay enough to escape poverty,” said ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work.”

During the Harper Era,  youth unemployment mushroomed:

Former prime minister Stephen Harper did more to undermine than assist young job seekers. Between 2006 and 2014 his government opened the floodgates to low-skilled temporary foreign workers, who took the entry-level jobs normally sought by young people.

In 2013, he claimed there was a severe skill shortage in the land. There were plenty of jobs but employers couldn’t find workers with the skills they needed. This misalignment, Harper said, was “the biggest challenge our country faces.” No one could figure out where these job vacancies were. Reporters, economists, the parliamentary budget office and the Conference Board of Canada did some digging and discovered they didn’t exist. Federal officials were relying on data from Kijiji, a classified ad service operated by eBay. It allowed employers to post the same job in various categories, which led Ottawa to double and triple count. 

Justin Trudeau vows that his government will reverse that course:

Justin Trudeau has pledged to spend $455 million a year helping young Canadians find work. His intent is to create 40,000 jobs annually by expanding Ottawa’s summer jobs program; increasing the number of co-op positions available for business and engineering students; giving a one-year payroll tax break to employers who hire young Canadians for permanent positions; and relaunching a youth service program like Katimavik, started by his father in 1977 and eliminated by the Harper government in 2012. 

But, Goar writes, most of Trudeau's efforts are focused on the public sector. More needs to be done in the private sector. Will the Captains of Industry step up? We'll see. Any society which cannot make a future for its youth is strangling its own future.


Steve said...

tech is making work obsolete. Money not so much.

Owen Gray said...

Technology and Globalization have devastated the job market, Steve. And young people have got the shortest part of the stick.

Toby said...

Technology is going to shove all our unemployment rates up into the 50% range. Eventually, we will all look like Greece. The real issue is that we will be forced to find ways to redistribute wealth and, yes, jobs. Our parents had a plan, the 30 hour work week. The neo-cons got rid of that. We will have to dismantle corporate rights clauses and hold corporations and their executives responsible for their messy externalities. We will have to put an end to the sustainable growth myth. We will have to drive up taxes so that governments will be able to do what we need them to do.

We have built a big mess, Owen, and we have to clean it up.

Rural said...

Is there any wonder that so many of our youth turn to gangs and crime after repeatedly being rejected for the few jobs available, few of which are long term full time positions. Is this, we wonder, a contributing factor in driving some both here and elsewhere in the world to join terrorist groups? When you reach the bottom almost anything looks better!

Lorne said...

The thing that bothers me the most in this area, Owen, and I see no evidence of it changing under Trudeau, is the ongoing mythology about low corporate tax rates being the key to job creation. Despite the fact that statistics show this to be a lie, successive governments hew to this fiction. In my view, it is definitely time for a modest increase in corporate taxation rates, which, while it may not increase the number of jobs available, will certainly be helpful in formulating bold public policy initiatives.

Anonymous said...

well said Owen...

"Any society which cannot make a future for its youth is strangling its own future."

Too many parties court corporations for support to stay in power for their own self interests. Too few court their citizens to make a better society. This is most devastating t o young people and the future well being of our country.

I truly hope the Trudeau government can start to turn the tide that is strangling our country's future.


Owen Gray said...

My generation was lucky, Bill. Governments invested in us. But our previous government considered the young a burden.

Owen Gray said...

It's clear now, Lorne, that -- as Mark Carney noted -- low tax rates at the top of the ladder only create a pool of dead money. Those who argue that they create jobs are selling snake oil.

Owen Gray said...

It's not just that the jobs are low paying, Rural. They're precarious. It's hard to dream of a future when your job could disappear in the blink of an eye.

Owen Gray said...

Your last sentence is right on target, Toby. There's a lot of work to be done.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Owen. I'm struck by the number of highly recognized experts, especially economists, who have emerged concluding that today's political leadership does not understand what is going on environmentally, economically, socially, even politically. They seem convinced that we're caught in a global crisis of incompetence, partially cultivated, from which we don't seem to have much chance of changing course. There are no great ideas on offer these days, no message of vision that captures our imagination and responds to our concerns. As Don Pittis writes on the CBC's website today, there are some who contend we might need a deep and lasting depression to reset all that has gone wrong. They're talking real "dirty thirties" stuff. With today's levels of household indebtedness that would be devastating.

Nikiforuk has an essay in The Tyee that touches on the live grenade of unconventional oil that could destabilize nations and lead to revolt. Chris Hedges, of course, has been warning that we are in a pre-revolutionary mode right now. He believes it's a matter of time whether it's next year or a decade from now. A crisis of youth unemployment almost guarantees that Hedges is right.

Economist James Galbraith argues that, since 2008, we've fallen under a Ponzi economy where a looter class (the 1%) realizes this can't last and has responded by trying to grab as much of everything as they possibly can before time runs out. In the process they've been gutting the middle class and transferring that wealth to themselves where, rather than putting it to work in the economy, they're accumulating it as the rich once did back in the Victorian era. That certainly cannot end well.

The remedies exist but they're radical. Scrapping globalization, emasculating corporatism, rejecting neoliberalism and imposing redistributive taxation on a scale few of us could imagine. Maybe we will do these things but, if so, it won't be before a lot of more vulnerable players in the global economy succumb.

Owen Gray said...

I read Nikiforuk's piece and was impressed, Mound. The conventional wisdom was that when the price of oil goes down, the drop will stimulate the economy. That's not happening because there is a lot of bad debt tied up in oil deposits that are hard to get at.

We've got lots of bad debt everywhere -- in housing, in oil, in student loans. There are all kinds of bombs waiting to explode.

Steve said...

The ruling class has been fighting since the beginning of time for the lowest labour cost, consequences be dammed.