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Economy and entrepreneurship

How Canadian youth are faring with education and employment

April 24, 2023

The first report This link will open in a new window. in a series on youth in Canada is here and I had the opportunity to discuss how they are navigating education and employment with Desjardins economist, Marc Desormeaux. Read along to get insight into our meaningful conversation!

A text by Fatima Raza, youth reporter for Desjardins

Part 1: State of Education and Youth

Canada is known for its highly educated workforce. According to the report, youth enrollment in the bottom income quintile has increased by 28% while there was a 10% rise in the top income quintile between 2001 and 2017.

However, a lot more work is needed. In total, only 43% of lower-income youth are enrolled in postsecondary studies, compared to 77% of youth in the top quintile.

Marc Desormeaux explains that the cost of education is one of the biggest barriers for lower-income youth.

“If we look at economically disadvantaged students in Canada, just like everywhere else in the world, they’re much less likely to pursue post-secondary education because of those costs and the barriers,” he says.

Marc highlights that governments in Canada and the US are trying to implement student debt relief, in hopes that they can make education more affordable.

Other resources that can help include savings plans and RESPs that allow tax benefits for education savings.

“Higher education is correlated with positive labour market outcomes. We see that across the world. In Canada, better-educated youth are more likely to be engaged in the labour market,” Marc explains.

Education can open doors to better job opportunities, making it accessible to all should be a priority.

Part 2: Young Women

The report also shows that women are subject to unique challenges in the labour market.

According to a survey conducted by the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC), “family-related obligations are why close to one-third of women aged 16 to 29 (32%) are not in employment, education or training, compared with only 5% of men.”

“Not only are Canadian women more likely than men to switch from full-time to part-time employment earlier in their career, but those women also often cite caring for children as the primary reason they had to make that shift,” Marc says.

Marc mentions that universal childcare in Canada could be a game changer for young women, as it was for those in Quebec in the late 1990s when the province put in place a subsidized childcare program.

“When we look at historical employment rates in Quebec versus Ontario for young women and men, it’s clear that Quebec’s subsidized childcare system has helped female labour force participation and employment outcomes,” Marc explains.

Marc highlights that enabling hybrid and remote work can also help women who are caring for children and also trying to work.

Though, it is crucial to note that there still is a compensation gap between men and women.

“Childcare obligations historically meant that women haven’t worked as much, haven’t gotten the same educational opportunities or the same advancement opportunities within the workforce,” he says.

The good news is the report highlights improvement is being made when it comes to employment rates and young women are catching up to their male counterparts.

Part 3: Immigrant Youth

The report finds that in recent years, the number of international students choosing a school in Canada grew rapidly. In fact, the numbers went from over 122,000 study permit holders back in 2000 to more than 807,000 in 2022. Most of those students are attending college or university at the master’s level.

International students account for three-quarters of engineering and computer science graduates with a master’s or doctorate degree, dominating Canadian-born students in STEM fields.

Marc explains that international students and immigrants are important to Canada.

“Immigrants contribute to the population and add to the pool of workers that are available to produce goods and services. That’s needed in Canada as our aging population means that there will be fewer and fewer people available to work over time. So, immigration can mitigate that,” he says.

It is also important to note that Canada has one of the lowest fertility rates in the G7, creating a greater need for immigrants to supplement the domestic workforce in Canada than there is in other advanced nations, Marc adds.

While it is clear that youth have and will continue to face unique challenges there is hope for a brighter future, and we can collectively work to keep making life better for the youngest members of the Canadian labour force.

This is why Desjardins continues to prioritize supporting youth and has developed initiatives like the upcoming Dream the Impossible event for young people between 18 to 30.

You can read the full economic youth report here This link will open in a new window.. You can view the infographic of the report here This link will open in a new window..