Ironic Story of Unemployment in Canada

by: Volodymyr Paslavskyi

It is an ironic story,-and perhaps a very brave story,-that pits against each other two most fragile groups of our society – youth and seniors. There is no easy way of telling this story because these two groups are so interconnected that whenever one attempts to raise it, s/he runs the risk of offending someone.  I could never imagine that there is so much competition for good jobs between youth and seniors until when I started to help unemployed young adults look for jobs.  At that moment, it dawn on me that when it comes to employment, youth and seniors represent different sides of the same coin.  They are locked-in this struggle, where one is on the verge of becoming what it is not yet and the other is totally impervious to changes in society.  Nothing illustrates this point so well as the story I am about to tell you.  And yes, it is with great caution that I share it with you. 

I have come with several youth to a government sponsored agency in Toronto to look for a job. After filling out forms, we were met with a very nice agent.  She was dressed in a scrubs-like suit and her neck was covered in torques eye-drops jewelry that one can buy in Sears. Her suit was very free and did not look like anything one sees on the Bay Street.  She greeted us and let us in to her working station area.  There she slowly proceeded to ask us about our skills, qualifications, education, etc.  Time for time she would awkwardly check things off her computer. 

Everything seemed to be fine and I thought we were making progress until she emphasized that the best way to find a job is to network; that the youth should go out there and network; that they should arrange “information interviews” with employers and in three months they should find jobs.  This is when I was blown away.  Her advice sounded so shallow and misdirected as if young people do not know the importance of networking.  More than that, to give such advice one does not need to be an experienced HR worker.  In fact, a high school student can sound just as legitimate in giving out such advices to his/her peers as the agent from this particular agency. 

Amazingly, in a split second, my brain quickly put together all facts, such as scrubs-like suite, torques eye-drops jewelry, awkwardness with computer, in one shocking conclusion.  This employment agent is a senior, who,-rather than retire,-works in a position that easily can be filled by a young adult or even a high school student.  It is ironic, but they are unemployed because people like her do not retire and hawk good jobs.

Of course, in Canada, we no longer have the mandatory age of retirement.  So there is nothing wrong with not retiring.  Federal politicians even decided to move the retirement age from 65 to 67 in order to buttress the economy and avoid/postpone deficits related to the OAS.  Unfortunately, these changes only increase competition for good jobs, increase unemployment for the youth and make it even harder for young adults to get meaningful jobs.

In Canada, the youth unemployment ranges from 15% to 20%, everyone knows it is very high. But there are some figures that we do not know, but Statistic Canada records them anyways. Thus, Statistics Canada reported in January 2011 study (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/110131/dq110131c-eng.htm) that 11% of senior Canadians never planned to retire and 22% of retirees, returned to work.  When one compares these figures, the irony of the Canadian unemployment market becomes obvious.  In the struggle between youth and seniors for jobs, young people are losing.  Perhaps if young people could articulate their demands and regularly vote, they would be able even the playing field. Until then, we wish them good luck.

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