We Need Leadership on Unemployment

If the recent spate of shootings in Toronto isn’t stark evidence of need to tackle the crisis of youth unemployment and disenfranchisement, then nothing is. The issues at the root of such community-level violence are, of course, deep and nuanced, but the lack of leadership from above is central among them. Young people and their needs are increasingly being shunted to the sidelines, ignored by those with the power to effect real change, and the consequences grow increasingly severe.

Essentially, young adults both here in Canada and around the world are being robbed of “the dream.” They’re languishing in unemployment, victims of the relentless global focus on austerity, and are frustrated by their lack of agency to help themselves. These situations all combine into a perfect storm of pressure building at both the individual and community levels. Governments and political parties won’t be able to resist the pushback forever; we’re almost certainly going to see more Quebec-style social unrest across the financially struggling parts of the developed world.

Here at home, a number of political figures are trying to take up the cause and force various governments’ hands. Liberal MP Scott Brison has been a vocal advocate of a coordinated strategy to foster greater levels of youth employment and engagement across Canada. His argument—that government cuts to student/youth job programs and a lack of federal-provincial engagement have caused a serious decline in youth job prospects—is backed up by some startling numbers.

This year, Canada posted the lowest youth summer employment rate since the late 1970s. The federal government defended itself with pointed explanations of decisions—notably a hiring credit for small businesses—but it”s increasingly obvious that priorities lie elsewhere.

This sustained inaction and lack of leadership may cost us all in the long run. We already see the results on the streets of Toronto and other urban centres. Young people with minimal prospects become mired in a web of odd jobs and problems characteristic of chronically low-income lives. Study after study show that these patterns breed violence and deep social ills that are difficult to resolve once they become embedded—whether within in a person or a neighbourhood. Poverty begets poverty, and it’s frustrating to see our leaders decry society’s problems while actively working against the implementation of credible, well-established solutions.

Governments need to work together, along with private sector organizations and casino online the citizenry at large, to tackle these challenges. Programs that accelerate job creation in targeted areas (young people, but also new Canadians, recent graduates, etc.) will not only help to lower social unrest, but could address other pressing issues like income disparity and civic disengagement.

Even highly educated young people are watching their skills erode and their plans for the future dim; the cynicism this breeds doesn’t bode well for anyone’s future. We need greater institutional and community support to provide networking opportunities where young people can find work and gain experience, in order to develop skills and establish careers that will help them move up in the world.

In the end, there are no quick fixes. Violence and disorder aren’t necessarily the direct result of unemployment, but they’re certainly part of the cycle of economic and social disparity. It’s equally true that pouring money into endeavours that create jobs and stimulate industries won’t alleviate all of society’s woes. However, it’s only with strong, reinvigorated leadership and the right tools that we can hope to prevent a generation of young people from becoming mired in a bleak future. The pressure’s on our leaders to turn today’s dilemmas into tomorrow’s prosperity.

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