Education Employment Financial security Youth

The kids aren’t alright: Unpaid internships among growing list of challenges


Unpaid internships focus of growing backlash
The Canadian Press, March 2, 2014

A few of the challenges facing younger Canadians, recently mentioned on these pages:

– While young workers accounted for about 1/6 of total Canadian employment in 2008, they incurred more than half, 240K of 400K, of real (population-adjusted) job losses over the past 5 years (link);

– Over the past five years, Canadians age 15-24 incurred ~32K job losses in Retail and wholesale trade. Unlike seniors, youth suffered job losses in nearly every sector since the onset of The Great Recession, the greatest being in Manufacturing, with ~80K jobs lost (link);

– Full-time post-secondary enrollment for youth age 15-24 between 2007/8 and 2011/12 (latest year available) rose 130 thousand, up 13.3%. For context, their LFS-estimated population rose just 60 thousand, up 1.4% between 2007 and 2011. Youth employment declined 145 thousand, down 5.5%, over the same period. While correlation isn’t causation, the simultaneous loss in youth employment and increase in full-time enrolment, both disproportionately greater than their relative increase in population, suggests many young people remained in / returned to school as they became disemployed – a form of labour market attachment (link);

– Young Canadians are increasingly being warehoused in post-secondary institutions as their careers are postponed, racking up student debt the federal government passed legislation to ensure they – unlike their parents – can never write-off even in insolvency. As an added bonus, they’ll have shorter careers and expected lifetime earnings with which to pay down those much larger debts  – since tuition freezes were lifted in the mid-90′s and fees multiplied five times since (link);

…and, at least according to the anecdotal evidence, now young Canadians have decidedly less – for many, nothing at all – to show for the extra debt they’ve taken on and time they’ve spent pursuing post-secondary studies in th wake of the Great Recession.

Perhaps a partial solution wrt student debt would be a fed/prov arrangement to deduct unpaid hours as paid-equivalents from outstanding government student loans, with some extension to students carrying private student loans/lines-of-credit based on need. But that would first require mandating employers account for the hours their unpaid interns work; given the increasingly exploitative nature of the practice, it should come as no surprise many don’t do so voluntarily.

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