Young Adults Hard Hit by Economic Impact of Pandemic, Survey Suggests

OTTAWA – In a pandemic that has shed light on how COVID-19 changed the lives of seniors, parents and children, new research shows that young adults are among the Canadians hardest hit by the economic impact of the crisis in public health.

According to survey results shared exclusively with the star, the number of Canadians ages 18-24 who were neither working nor enrolled in educational programs increased during the first nine months of the pandemic. 19% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 interrupted or postponed their postsecondary studies, a finding that particularly affected indigenous, black and disabled youth.

Younger workers also reported the highest likelihood of working reduced hours and losing their jobs, with 50 percent of Canadians under the age of 30 experiencing one or both of those outcomes.

Young adults also reported that the pandemic continues to affect their daily lives. That finding did not occur in older age groups, which reported declines in how the pandemic affected them between December 2020 and June this year.

The data comes from a partnership between the Environics Institute, the Future Skills Center, and the Ryerson University Diversity Institute, which conducted its third employment and skills survey in June. More than 5,900 adults participated in the survey, which explored how COVID-19 affected employment, income and work environments, including 2,648 respondents ages 18 to 34.

For Marci Ien, Canada’s new youth minister, the findings are personal.

“I have a 17-year-old daughter, Blaize, and she has given me permission to speak about her experience,” Ien told the Star. “She fought a lot through this pandemic.”

Ien said his daughter spent her senior year in high school worried about going to college and whether her grades could have been better if she had attended classes in person.

“We are seeking help for her and we continue to seek help for her,” the minister said of the mental health challenges young people are experiencing as they look to an uncertain future.

Ien touted Ottawa’s existing commitment of $ 13.1 billion over the next six years, aimed at helping youth with education, skills training, financial support and job placements, as evidence that Canadian youth are a priority for the government. federal.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough took a similar tactic when asked whether getting young people back to work would be a factor in her new term.

“It has been a priority for both the deputy prime minister and myself from the beginning – the risk of losing a generation to this pandemic economically and from a prosperity standpoint,” Qualtrough said.

“As we recover from this, we will invest in training. We have improved the Canadian Student Loan Program. We are tripling Canada’s summer jobs and youth employment skills strategy. All of this remains a high priority for our government. I can assure you that that hasn’t changed, and I suspect they will just tighten it. “

Still, young adults received no mention in this month’s throne speech, which outlines the government’s key priorities before ushering in a new Parliament.

And despite employment rates returning to pre-pandemic levels in September, employment for men and women ages 20-24 yet to return to its pre-pandemic state, although this year some increases were observed.

Also highlighting the unique challenges of COVID-19 is the survey finding that while postsecondary education has historically cushioned the effects of economic shocks, that is not the case now. In fact, respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 reported that the negative effects of the pandemic were felt more intensely as education levels increased.

“For governments, for employers, this group of people goes from adolescence to adulthood. The transition time made them vulnerable during the pandemic and it’s really important to help them catch up now, ”said Andrew Parkin, Executive Director of the Environics Institute.

As for those most affected by the crisis, namely indigenous, black and disabled youth, Parkin cautioned that policymakers should pay particular attention to those most at risk of being left behind.

“In two years, employers are going to interview people and they are going to have holes in their CV,” he said. “It’s going to be easy to explain as long as we don’t forget what it was like.”

Ien is aware of the importance of offering specific answers. And he says that if young people are concerned about being overlooked during this crisis, it is their duty to pay attention.

“It is my responsibility to hear from them, and that means meeting with them and forming listening groups across the country. It means listening more and understanding what they need, ”he said.

“I just received this portfolio, I don’t even have my mandate letter yet. but I don’t need to be told that I’m here to listen and I’m here to act. “


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa reporter covering federal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


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