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Economic Viewpoint

Charting a Course to Their Brightest Future: Navigating the Opportunities and Challenges of Generational Change

June 15, 2023
Jimmy Jean, Vice-President, Chief Economist and Strategist, Randall Bartlett, Senior Director of Canadian Economics, Marc Desormeaux, Principal Economist and Kari Norman, Economics Document Production Specialist

Desjardins Economic Studies has published a research series on the economic opportunities and challenges facing youth in Canada. Our first report focused on the path being navigated by younger Canadians as they leave home to pursue an education and embark on their careers. We followed it up with a report that looks at the challenges being experienced by young adults as they look to put down roots in their communities. This third and final report examines the circumstances that will come to define this generation over the coming decades.

  • Starting on a positive note, today’s young adults in Canada stand to receive an unprecedented transfer of wealth in the coming decades. And this has already begun, as family members come together to provide financial assistance for things like education and a down payment on a house. Going forward, the pace of this transfer is expected to accelerate, including not just investment assets but also businesses.
  • But there will be a lot of challenges leading up to this intergenerational wealth transfer. As the baby boomers age, the costs associated with providing them with healthcare and social assistance will increase dramatically. And given these programs are funded directly from tax revenues, the burden of paying for these services will fall disproportionately on today’s young adults. The rapid population growth resulting from the heightened pace of immigration will help to offset the cost to households, but likely not entirely given the size of the demographic challenge.
  • As if managing dramatic demographic headwinds wasn’t enough, young Canadians are also feeling a lot of anxiety about what climate change will mean for their futures. More than any other group of Canadians, they believe governments are not doing enough to mitigate the long-term impacts. Climate change and the energy transition will bring substantial risks—both physical and related to the transition—some of which we know about and others that will only emerge over time. However, the energy transition will also bring with it enormous opportunity in the form of new investments in nascent industries.
  • Today’s youth are, and will continue to be, at the forefront of developing and using new technologies. Artificial intelligence has garnered particular attention recently. But innovations in communications, transportation, advanced materials and renewable energy are also charging ahead. As these different technologies interact in a mutually reinforcing manner, our lives will become increasingly interconnected in all that we do. To take advantage of this accelerating innovation, Canada must ensure that our young people are prepared to be global leaders. This must start early, by teaching young students cutting-edge science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, creating a pathway to postsecondary education for underrepresented groups and building a talent pipeline from school to work, among other things.

While we have identified several of the most prominent generational opportunities and challenges facing Canada’s youth, this list is by no means exhaustive. As in every generation, new circumstances will emerge that no one today is anticipating. But as this series of reports has illustrated, young adults in Canada are well prepared to contend with what the future will throw at them. They are educated, hardworking, entrepreneurial and international in their perspective. As they are struggling with affordability and anxiety about the future, it’s incumbent upon earlier generations to work to alleviate this burden. And with technological innovation accelerating at a torrid pace, it is of paramount importance that we all work to position today’s youth for success in the decades to come.