Youth Job Guarantee would go a long way in reducing youth unemployment

University can be an extremely stressful experience for students, but it's also a time of growth. Learning how to balance school, extracurriculars, a social life, and living on your own is useful training for dealing with the challenges that come with adulthood. While graduation should be a celebration of conquering the intense demands of a post secondary education, for many students it's more nerve-racking than university itself. That's because youth unemployment is a major problem in Canada, and there are scores of talented and motivated young graduates who can't find work right now.

In response to this problem, a leading Canadian think-tank has created a plan to guarantee the availability of 186,000 jobs to youth and ease students' transition into the workforce. According to Statistics Canada, there are currently 387,700 people between the ages of 15 and 24 who cannot find employment, or roughly 13.7 percent of youth looking for work. The Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute says its Youth Job Guarantee would reduce youth joblessness in Canada by addressing the three main drivers of youth employment.

The think tank notes that 1) a considerable number of young people have been marginalized from the workforce, and 2) many returning students are unable to find work to gain job experience and help finance their studies. The third problem is that a significant proportion of young people leaving the post-secondary education system can only find insecure, low-paying jobs that do not match their educational qualifications.

The Institute's Youth Job Guarantee would tackle these problems head on so that young graduates would be able to gain work experience, earn fair wages, and find employment in their field of expertise. Under the Guarantee, private businesses and the government would invest equal amounts of money to pay young people to work. This would take dead money out of the hands of corporations to create jobs for youth, while requiring the government to play a more proactive role in reducing youth unemployment.

Estimates suggest that an investment of $670 million from the private sector and an equivalent amount from government would be enough to create more than 180,000 jobs. This would cut the youth jobless rate by two percentage points, to where it was seven years ago. The Institute notes that $670 million may seem like a lot of money, but compared to the $626 billion dollars of "dead" money that Canada's private corporations are currently sitting on, it's a realistic investment. As well, private companies would immediately benefit from more young people achieving success in the workforce.

With a combined investment of $1.34 billion, the Guarantee would create paid co-op, internship, and job placement positions to “kick start” the careers of young Canadians. The investment would allow youth the opportunity to gain much-needed experience within their field as well as earn money to start supporting themselves. Ideally the positions would pay a living wage of $15 per hour, and the Institute estimates that their Guarantee would cut the youth unemployment rate by nearly 50,000 people at any given time.

In our opinion, the Broadbent Institute's Youth Job Guarantee is exactly the type of bold thinking that we need to address the very real and growing problem of youth joblessness. Asking corporations to invest some of their unused money, and demanding more from our government in tackling youth unemployment, is a reasonable way of helping young graduates succeed and contribute to the economy. Not to mention, long-term joblessness can diminish graduates' knowledge and skills, lower their life-long incomes, and reduce overall economic productivity, which isn't good for anyone. Indeed, hard-working young graduates deserve a fulfilling career that can provide them with a decent standard of living, and the Youth Job Guarantee would put tens of thousands of youth on the path to achieving that goal.