Here is my own personal experience just to give a realistic perspective on some numbers:
Statistics say that the average person will hold 7 jobs in their lifetime. I am 28 years old, and I’ve had 13 different jobs since I started working at the age of 17. Of all those jobs, only one of them was full time, and had benefits. Of those 13 jobs, I got laid off twice. Another of those jobs was seasonal. I left 2 other part time jobs because the weekly hours reduced by so much that I couldn’t afford to keep working there. And I couldn’t get a second job because even though I wasn’t getting the hours, I was required under contract to be available during evenings and weekends, and couldn’t commit those days elsewhere. I have never earned more than $14 an hour, or worked somewhere for longer than two years. I was even promoted to a supervisory role once, only to be demoted along with my other newly promoted team mates due to “company changes in supervisory roles”.
I went to college twice, and earned a diploma in Career and Work Counselling. And now I’m being turned away from jobs in my field because no one wants to create entry level positions. They want me to spend more money I don’t have on more courses, and some positions want me to have a drivers license and a car. Or a luxuriously expensive university degree. I’m also expected to work as an intern for free to gain experience.
I just started my 13th job. It’s part time and only 26 hours a week. No benefits. And it’s front reception work. But, at least it’s for a non profit organization, which was what I wanted, and I’m loving it there so far. So, despite my turbulent 20’s, I have to say I still feel grateful.
However, I’m 28 years old, with 11 years of work experience, an impressive array of skills and aptitudes, yet in terms of employment, I haven’t progressed much at all. I’ve done all the right things: I’m hard working, reliable, efficient, I’ve taken risks, educated myself; Sure I’ve made mistakes but I’ve grown from them.I have an amazing resume (so I’ve been told) and I interview quite well (so I’ve also been told), and everyone I have worked for has so many great things to say about me. I have great potential, they say. Which begs the question, why can’t I find financial stability after struggling for over a decade to find it?
Truth is, I’m not alone.
The national average for unemployment sits around the 7% mark. However, youth unemployment, ages 16-25, it sits around the 14%. They are also statistically expected to have up to 20 different occupations by the time they retire (however even I think that number is too low). I’m only a few years older, but the situation isn’t far from my own.
I’ve read all the articles, watched documentaries and read countless books on the topic of our lost generation. Heck, I even spent whole courses at school immersed in the social changes that caused this tremendous shift in the labour market. And here I sit, an example.
According to the report on a collaborative study conducted by McMaster University, PEPSO and United Way entitled “It’s More than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Well-being”, this is called “precarious employment”, that is, employment that isn’t both permanent or full time. In includes part time work, contract work, work with no pensions or health benefits. Seasonal work or on call positions. Unstable work that offers little to no security or compensation.
And of the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton and Stoney Creek workforce, a whopping 50% of us have precarious employment. That means half of the working population are in my exact predicament, in constant worry about how we’ll make ends meat, unsure of our futures, frustrated with the mounting pressures placed on us by society. No wonder Depression, anxiety, and bipolar mood disorders are on the rise. 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from a mental illness at least at some point in their lives.
So, yes, like most of my generation, I feel trapped. I also feel angry because I know it was the corporate greed of the generations before me that caused this, and it was our governments that allowed it, and continue to allow it.
For now, I concentrate on being grateful for what I do have. And a part of me is hopeful that even though my generation is facing tough times ahead, we’ll deal with it, and overcome our obstacles. Maybe this is the generation that will learn to live with less.
I can be a negative pessimist at times, but deep at my core I have faith.
Maybe some good will come out of all of this.