To the editor:
It’s appropriate for MP Ron Cannan to announce an injection of $50 million into two Youth Employment Strategy programs. (Gov’t Seeking Ideas For Projects To Connect Youth To New Jobs, page A5.) He admits that youth unemployment is high, “almost twice the national average.”
Only, that’s not true. August data show that at 14.8 per cent, the youth unemployment rate was more than twice the national average of 7.3 per cent.
You have to admit, there’s a difference between almost twice and more than twice. Whenever Cannan sprinkles labour force data around, whether the numbers are right or really not right, you can be sure spin will follow.
In his column (also published Sept. 20 in the Capital News) he tells us that youth unemployment is high, “yet” at the beginning of May, there were more than 258,000 job vacancies in Canada. He portrays the unemployment problem as being “a gap” that can be bridged by connecting unemployed youth to available jobs, while developing their skills and employability. The injection of monies into the programs will try to bridge that gap, “matching approximately 3,000 young Canadians with jobs in areas where there is a clear need for workers.”
It sounds like a laudable proposition until you do the math. At the beginning of May, there were 394,200 youth who were unemployed. Forgoing any need to bridge a gap, there were already too many youth to fill those 258,000 available jobs, and that’s to say nothing of the other 976,400 unemployed Canadians who also would have been competing for those jobs. Altogether, there were more than a million too many unemployed to fill those jobs.
Since May, youth unemployment has climbed by 22,600 to 416,800. If 3,000 unemployed youth were hired today, that would represent only slightly more than one-half of one per cent of unemployed youth suddenly having jobs and futures.
There are two problems with the message Cannan delivers. First, the news is hardly anything to write home about. Economist Andrew Jackson said in June of this year, when things were marginally better: “I am struck by the very small scale of government interventions—just 1.5 per cent of the 15-24 age group benefit from the job subsidies provided through the federal Youth Employment Strategy.”
Second, Cannan has been putting political spin on issues all summer long—it’s a chronic and unsavoury problem. His back-to-back statements, “Our government is committed to supporting our young people because we recognize how vital their abilities are to Canada’s long-term growth, competitiveness and overall prosperity” and “Today’s youth are tomorrow’s workforce, so by investing in them we are investing in Canada,” are slogans devoid of any honesty at all.
Rather than throwing youth under the bus, the government ought to do as economist Angella MacEwen suggests: create a substantial youth employment strategy, and “work with employers and educators to ensure there are enough spaces to provide youth with the skills required to innovate and compete.”
Andrew Jackson says that we can create jobs for youth “if we expand spaces in those apprenticeship, college and university programs which lead to genuine employment opportunities. For example, few electricians or physiotherapists are unemployed, but there is a long waiting list to get into training programs.”
I will keep saying it as long as it needs to be said: Canadians need jobs, not political spin, and we need those jobs now. (Canadian corporations are sitting on cash assets of $525 billion, having received corporate tax cuts of 26 per cent beginning in 1960, amounting to $52 billion per year. They need to pony up and invest in this country and its people.)
Canadian workers also need relaxed EI eligibility requirements and extended benefit periods until required jobs materialize. (There was $57 billion in the EI fund until the government raided it of all but $2 billion in 2010. That’s a problem Canadians should insist that this government address.)
And we need the legislation revoked that allows employers to pay Temporary Foreign Workers up to 15 per cent less than Canadian workers in the same jobs, thereby making foreign workers more attractive to employers, and driving down wages for all workers.