In today’s edition (Dec. 5) of the Ottawa Citizen, James Bagnall reports that the unemployment rate in Ottawa has declined to 6.2 per cent in November, down from 6.6 per cent this October. While this initially sounds like good news for everyone in the Nation’s Capital, the fact that Ottawa’s unemployment rate is shrinking is accompanied by an important caveat; The majority of the jobs being created in the City are in the hospitality industry.
In fact, the Statistics Canada report cited by Bagnall reveals that Ottawa has increased the number of jobs in restaurants and hotels by a nearly identical 21,900 jobs in each of the past two years–and an increase of 5,000 jobs in November alone.
Compare that to the mere thousand public administration jobs that were created from November 2013 to November 2014, and the picture becomes clear that, for Millennials in particular, those who hope to work for the feds as a public administrator are likely to have their dreams dashed by a harsh dose of reality–there simply aren’t many jobs being created to replace outgoing public servants.
From October 2014 to November 2014 alone, the public service lost 6,300 jobs. If only a net 1,000 public administration jobs have been created in the last year, what hope is there that recent graduates can replenish and reinvigorate a federal public service that is starved of youthful initiative?
For the record, there’s nothing wrong with hospitality jobs; in fact, I could go on at length about how valuable my experiences working as a busboy at a busy restaurant in making me the person who I am today. I know many people who work in the hospitality industry as chefs, cooks, servers, and like so many others, I have an appreciation for all things food-related.
But here’s the thing; when the scales start to tip too heavily toward jobs created mainly in the hospitality industry, there’s a real danger that the business and mid-level government employee classes that hotels and restaurants in Ottawa rely upon for patronage are shrinking, and that’s ultimately bad for everyone–not just the recent grads increasingly directed toward the hospitality industry.
This issue isn’t just confined to Ottawa, which is unique in that it is home to the majority of the federal government’s public servant workforce. Youth unemployment is a problem across Canada.
For those Millennials who come home from college or university carrying significant debt, the wages earned as a part-time or full-time employee in the hospitality industry simply isn’t enough to pay the bills, much less to save enough to move out of their parents’ homes.
According to the 2012 Canadian Census, 42.3 per cent of Canadians aged 20-29 were living with their parents, and with the youth unemployment rate in Canada remaining steady for years, you can bet that percentage hasn’t dropped dramatically since the 2012.
It was even worse for Canadians aged 20-24–the age of most recent graduates–with 59.3 per cent of them living with their parents. In a country as wealthy and with as many bright young people as Canada, this is quite simply unacceptable.
The Harper government will have been in power for nearly a decade by the next election, and youth unemployment is a significant national issue. The Harper government in particular must own up to its share of the blame, but that doesn’t mean the provinces shouldn’t do more to address youth unemployment themselves.
If only there was some kind of meeting where the First Ministers could hash this out…
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