Pandemic hit youth employment plans, and curbed their optimism, survey finds

Pandemic hit youth employment plans, and curbed their optimism, survey finds
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About one-third of Canadian youth ages 16 to 29 say the pandemic wreaked havoc on their employment plans — meaning they couldn’t find summer jobs or full-time positions, while others chose not to work over fears of COVID, says a new national poll.

Conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights for The Prosperity Project , the survey also found that as young people hit their later 20s, they grow increasingly pessimistic about the opportunity to find the type of job they want. And overall, youth are feeling more stress and anxiety as the pandemic drags on — in particular young women, Pollara found.

The picture continues to be grim for working mothers, who report they have been much more likely to work part-time or reduced hours — or drop out of the workforce all together — during the pandemic, the survey found.

“Youth were very exposed; they lost a year and they have been scarred by what happened,” said Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter, a “founding visionary” of the non-profit Prosperity Project, which was created at the start of the pandemic to ensure women — hit hard by COVID restrictions — are a focus of the economic recovery.

“Where is the assistance? We have been calling for programs for young people to help them through their education and training, and also through employment and entrepreneurship ... we need to avoid long-term” effects on youth, added Hunter, a former education and post-secondary minister in Ontario.

“There is a lot of fear and anxiety and not enough support in place.”

The Prosperity Project has been , and decided it was time to also talk to youth — and in particular, young women, added founder Pamela Jeffery.

The survey targeted parents of children 17 or younger, and also youth ages 16 to 29, across the country. Among youth, 55 per cent said they feel worse than earlier in the pandemic — and among younger women, that number hit 61 per cent. Almost two-thirds of those 16 and 17 years old report anxiety is “much higher” than before.

When it comes to work, the survey found 15 per cent of youth respondents were unable to find a summer job, and 7 per cent were unable to find full- or part-time employment after graduating, the survey found, and some 10 per cent wanted a summer job, but decided against seeking work because of COVID, which also impacted about 6 per cent who wanted to switch jobs or professions, but were unable to.

Youth also grow increasingly pessimistic about finding a good job fit when they finish school — with 81 per cent of those ages 16 and 17 feeling that way, but by age 25, just 61 per cent feel that way.

The online survey had a sample size of 937 youth and 735 parents from across the country, with margins of error on similar-sized probability samples at 3.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, respectively.

Jeffery said she is very concerned that “a majority of young women are feeling more depressed and anxious than at the start” of the pandemic. “I found that astounding ... there’s a huge difference” between young men and women.

Cameron Prosic, a McMaster University student, said he began looking for work last January and eventually decided to become a franchisee for a student painting company.

For him and his friends, their usual camp counselling jobs were up in the air because of the ongoing pandemic restrictions in the province. Many teens were left scrambling until the last minute because of that, added the 19-year-old.

“It was definitely a huge challenge finding jobs,” he said. “Camps reopened, but people were hired late. Moving to (the eased restrictions of) Stage 3 helps, but it was a challenge at the start of the summer to find jobs like that.”
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