Maclean's on "the new underclass"

January 14, 2013

Youth unemployment in Canada reached 15.2% during the recent recession, yet that figure fails to capture the depth of the problem, reports Maclean's. Most young people, it turns out, are working -- typically in jobs well below their qualification levels, and often outside their field. Labour-market experts call this underemployment -- a gross mismatch between individuals' skills and the jobs employers seek to fill. They note that even as young workers scramble for work, businesses are complaining about a shortage of engineers, technicians, and other skilled tradespeople to fill jobs in industries ranging from mining to health care. The issue is poorly understood as it emerges from a variety of forces: the decline of central Canada's manufacturing sector and the union positions it sustained; relentless cost-cutting by corporations; the demographic bulge of older workers holding high-skilled, well-paying positions; parents who pressed their children into university, hoping they'd land prestigious, white-collar jobs; and PSE institutions who indulged that urge despite the labour market's changing demands. "The result is a growing pool of well-educated twentysomethings scrapping it out for a limited number of prized positions -- a cohort one might describe as history's most cultivated underclass." Maclean's