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.

Accountability Education Governance Transparency

StatsCan’t be bothered with data requests

Promise today’s Globe write-up wasn’t co-ordinated with Stephen Gordon, who wrote a few days ago (in reference to the SEPH, but also more broadly)

Statistics Canada’s Attention Deficit Disorder
Stephen Gordon, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative January 23, 2014

Statistics Canada must be the only statistical agency in the world where the average length of a data series gets shorter with the passage of time.

That line is killer for those who’ve tried to get data from StatsCan in recent years. After ‘Data Liberation’ day in February 2012, hope was high. Then people started noticing CANSIM data tables discontinued, frozen or simply vanished.

A couple of points to add to Prof Gordon’s thoughtfully frustrated missive:

Having experienced it first-hand, StatsCan’s either sloppy or playing favourites, misrepresenting the availability of data to some (indicating it’s either not available or only available on a substantial ‘cost-recovery’ basis), while readily providing the same data to others gratis.

Dealing with a US statistical agency, like the Bureau of Labour Statistics or Census Bureau (which we have, on a number of occasions), really puts StatsCan’s poor service into perspective. Their US counterparts seem to bend over backwards to answer every question and provide detailed cross-tabs, many never published, just for the asking, sometimes sent to your inbox while you’re on the phone – even after advising them you’re not from the US.

And that’s without getting into the fact US, UK and other statistical agencies make available timely, complete public use microdata files (PUMFs) for all of their surveys, making it unnecessary to even call and ask about data in most cases. Contrast that with StatsCan: The last Survey of Household Spending PUMF was updated in 2009, and the file excludes key variables. While the Labour Force Survey is one of the few series the agency updates in a timely fashion, its PUMF has never included immigrant variables, despite the questions being part of the survey since 2006.

Despite assurances of a reply within a couple of business days, data requests sent to StatsCan sometimes go unanswered for weeks – often concluded with some variation of ‘it’s not available’ or ‘cost recovery’, and little effort to mask the punt.

Education Governance Health Transparency

DataLibre: Health Canada library holdings latest to be repurposed as kindling


Health Canada library changes leave scientists scrambling
Main Health Canada research library closed, access outsourced to retrieval company
Laura Payton and Max Paris, CBC News January 20, 2014

Fresh on the heels of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) library bonfire comes news that the Health Canada library holdings are scheduled to be repurposed as kindling (or cat litter, or pretty much anything, so long as it doesn’t involve reading). While the DFO tried to defend its decision on the basis of an obviously flawed internal analysis, Health Canada hired an external consultant to provide a recommendation. If there were any lingering doubts as to whether these decisions are being ideologically-driven, the CBC did a good job addressing the question

The draft report from a consultant hired by the department warned it not to close its library, but the report was rejected as flawed and the advice went unheeded.

To highlight the emerging MO, just recently used in the DFO library closure decision

If you want to justify closing a library, you make access difficult and then you say it is hardly used.
– Dr. Rudi Mueller, retired Health Canada pathologist

And to emphasise his point

Scientifically, we are going to be a third-rate country.
– Dr. Rudi Mueller, retired Health Canada pathologist

It’s unclear whether the good doctor meant to imply Canada’s reputation for scientific research was already that of a ‘second-rate’ country, or whether he was implying Canada’s skipping steps down the ladder with such ill-conceived policies. It’s quite sad either way.

Education Governance Transparency

2011 NHS post-mortem: For those hoping it will get better, it won’t (meet Connie Graziadei)

Why not? Well, for many reasons. Perhaps it’s easiest to highlight one that left many Statistics Canada employees bewildered (and supposedly prompted at least one senior exec to quit). Without further ado, meet Connie Graziadei, Assistant Chief Statistician of the Census, Operations and Communications Field:

From failed dental hygienist, college drop-out, admin assistant, HR rep… to Assistant Deputy Minister overseeing Canada’s largest social statistics program. Readers may note the write-up, intended to put a positive spin on a dubious appointment, mentions neither relevant education nor experience Ms. Graziadei had for the top Census job… other than having briefly worked closely as secretary for the Chief Statistician, and being married to another Statscan senior exec (both points glanced over in the attached profile).

How someone wholly unqualified ends up in such an important role speaks to the federal government and its bureaucracy’s dim(-witted) view of socio-economic research and its relevance to public policy.

Education Employment Governance Trade and investment Transparency

Canada’s Economic Action Plan: Problems with ‘Canada Job Grant’ ad go beyond fact program doesn’t exist (updated May 22, 2013)

A big deal was made over the long weekend of the current federal government’ advertising a ‘Canada Job Grant’ program that not only doesn’t exist, but hasn’t even been developed.

Apparently the government has spent in excess of $100M to date on such ‘Economic Action Plan’ ads. Imagine how many jobs that could have created. This is the latest manifestation of its view of Canadian workers as lazy, dim-wits who just aren’t looking hard enough for all the jobs available. Cue up the cartoon unemployed Canadians looking despondent with question marks in their thought bubbles. So many things wrong on so many levels with the ad. Let’s just move on to what little content it presented.