With over 630,000 jobs lost between March and December 2020, it’s clear that COVID-19 has taken a serious and lasting toll on the Canadian economy. Young people in Canada (aged 15-24) have been hit hard by this economic shutdown, seeing a massive 27.2% unemployment rate in April 2020 versus a general rate of 13.0%. Jobs for young Canadians have also been slower to return, as the unemployment rate for those 15-24 persists at 17.7% when compared to the rate decreasing to 8.6%. This is partly because many young Canadians, including students, tend to disproportionately work in the retail and service sectors, which have both been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because young Canadians tend to have the least seniority at their place of work, and therefore are the first to be relieved during a recession.
This unemployment gap between the student-aged and the general population requires sustained attention and investment from the federal government. Stimulating the creation of good jobs for post-secondary students is a crucial investment in the workforce of tomorrow, especially given the damage COVID-19-related lockdowns have done. Initiatives such as the Canada Summer Jobs Program, and the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, were vital before the pandemic, and must be scaled up to meet the enhanced needs of our current reality. In addition, an additional investment must be provided to programs like the Student Work Placement Program, to provide graduating students with the work experience they need before they start their career. Finally, given the scope of the economic hardship in Canada, it is also important to provide student work opportunities to as many students as possible, including international students and those over the age of 30, to ensure a broad-based labour market recovery following the end of the pandemic.
As such, CASA recommends that the Government of Canada do the following to #CloseTheGaps in the Canadian labour market:
- Build on existing investments in the Canada Summer Jobs program, Student Work Placement Program, and the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, to create more opportunities for post-secondary students.
- Create a program modeled off Canada Summer Jobs to provide students with part-time work opportunities during the school year that offer experiences relevant to areas of study.
- Amend the eligibility criteria for Canada Summer Jobs to make the program available to international students studying in Canada and as well as mature students over the age of 30.