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Wages, full-time work sliding for young Canadians, StatsCan says

Unemployment rates among young Canadians have held relatively steady when compared with the mid-1970s, but the proportion of full-time or permanent jobs has changed sharply over that time, says Statistics Canada.

Study looks at changes in the youth labour market from 1976 to 2015

Statistics Canada says the drop in youth full-time employment rates was already apparent in the late 1990s, well before the 2008-2009 recession. (Reuters)

Unemployment rates among young Canadians have held relatively steady when compared with the mid-1970s, but the proportion of full-time or permanent jobs has changed sharply over that time, says Statistics Canada.

In a study released Monday that looks at changes in the youth labour market from 1976 to 2015, Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for the 15 to 24 age group averaged 13.2 per cent in 2015, slightly higher than the rate of 12.4 per cent seen in 1976.

However, the agency said that among young Canadians who were not full-time students, proportionately fewer are now employed full time — meaning they worked at least 30 work hours per week -— than four decades ago. 

From 1976 to 1978, the full-time employment rate averaged 76 per cent for men aged 17 to 24, and 58 per cent for women in the same age group who were not in school full time.

However, by the mid-2010s, the corresponding percentages were 59 per cent for men and 49 per cent for women.

Statistics Canada said that drop in youth full-time employment rates was already apparent in the late 1990s, well before the 2008-2009 recession.

"The decline in youth full-time employment rates was driven mainly by increases in … part-time employment rather than by decreases in youth labour force participation or increases in youth unemployment," the agency said.

As fewer people under the age of 25 worked full time, those who did increasingly became employed in temporary jobs.

For all men under the age of 25 who were employed full time in 1989 —the first year for which figures on temporary employment are available— just seven per cent held temporary jobs.

By the middle of the current decade, that percentage had risen to 24 per cent, mainly as a result of a sharp increase in temporary employment during the 1990s.

For young women, the corresponding percentage rose from eight per cent in 1989 to 26 per cent in the mid-2010s

​Statistics Canada said these changes in job types were not unique to Canada, with similar situations seen in many Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Wage changes

While job types have changed over the past four decades, wages for young Canadians working full time have also varied greatly.

From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, full-time male employees aged 17 to 24 saw their median real hourly wages drop by roughly 15 per cent, while women in the same age group experienced a 10 per cent decline. From the early 1990s to 2004, those pay rates did not rise.

According to the report, wages grew significantly for the age group from 2004 to 2009 as oil prices increased, the housing boom intensified and general economic activity grew significantly.

However, these wage gains did not fully offset the losses experienced during the 1980s, Statistics Canada said.

The overall result was that by 2015, young full-time male employees had median wages that were about 10 per cent lower than those of their counterparts in the early 1980s, while the difference was three per cent for females.

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