Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Over 30s still can't be trusted

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"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" (Howard Beale - Network)

"You guys had it so much easier than we do!" (any parent to their child)

Considering the way things are today, I could be accused of misquoting, because the tables have completely turned. It is the new generation of young people who should be madder than hell because they have it so much harder than we did.

The saddest part of it all is that the Canadian Dream as we once knew it my soon have little chance of becoming reality for young people.

I can state for a fact that when most of my generation (1960s and 1970s) turned 18, we had a most reasonable shot at going to university and then pursuing a career that allowed us to raise a family in a nice home in the suburbs if we studied and worked hard.

But if things keep going the way they are, many young Canadians face a kind of future that doesn't include a rec room and a two-car garage.

In 1972, tuition at the University of Manitoba set me back $435 a year, and I came out of university with a degree and debt totalling two grand. A nice house on a bay in River Heights set me back $46,000. With interest rates of eight per cent, my monthly mortgage and tax bill totalled around $600. Housing prices barely rose year to year, so I did not build up much equity in this home, but overall, my family got by quite comfortably.

I realize the difficulty and danger of comparing dollars from different decades, but the average university graduate in Canada today enters the workforce $27,000 in debt. And while that degree costs way more, it is worth much less, if you can get it to pay off at all. One out of every three Canadian university grads between the ages of 25 and 29 work at low-skilled jobs not pertaining to their education.

That same home I bought costs $300,000 today, but with low interest rates and both parents working, a couple can make their monthly P.I.T. But then add on the $54,000 in debt they've accumulated from school, car payments, furniture and the cost of a couple of kids, and most young Canadian families are just a month or two away from catastrophic disaster.

What happens if interest rates go up and the monthly mortgage payments double or even triple?

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Just moving out on their own is a goal that keeps moving further and further away for young Canadians. Unemployment is double the national average and many of those who are working aren't pursuing careers in their chosen field that they believed would be rewarding financially and in every other way.

Worse, there isn't as much fallback that young people used to be able to count on. Like, say, all those kids who spent 20 grand for a bachelor of arts or science degree. In the old days, you could maybe tack on an education degree and find a pretty good job/career as a teacher. But check out the latest numbers in Ontario, where 11,000 new teachers graduate each year and only 4,600 teaching jobs open up. That means 67 per cent of the education grads are unemployed or scraping by through substitute teaching or tutoring or, like so many young people today, working as a server in some restaurant somewhere.

And settling for a job, any job, isn't what it used to be either. Modern billion-dollar companies like Facebook and Twitter don't create anywhere near the number of jobs automobile manufacturing plants and steel mills once did. Things have changed so much that a young person, on average, has 11 different jobs by the time he or she is 30. Future trends in employment, which all list toward instability and impermanence, indicate a young Canadian will have worked at 300 different "projects" by the time we "don't trust them anymore." The news is bad for the under-30 crowd every which way. Globalization has created outsourcing and automation creates technology, just two more modern phenoms that erase many more jobs from the Canadian labour market than they create. When cars that drive themselves replace cab drivers and pizza delivery boys, and robotic arms fill prescriptions and replace pharmacists, who can we trust for a job or a career?

Ironically, the ones hardest hit are the most educated and qualified. They become their own worst enemy by becoming the least likely to be hired. After all, they have the higher degree of education and are deeper in debt, so they expect (need) a higher salary than their competitors.

And then they must compete with those hangers-on who claim that "60 is the new 40." That's tough when a university degree is the new high school diploma and experience, which they lack, counts more than anything.

They used to say never trust anybody over 30. I didn't realize it would be us, who now want to cut taxes, control government spending and "get this country back in order."

In order to realize the Canadian Dream as we all used to know it, we really put the screws to young Canadians. Don't be surprised if we begin to hear demands for a whole new order on our streets in the near future.

The huge mass protests at the G20 summit in Toronto, Occupy Wall Street and Idle No More were mostly movements led by young people. Loosely structured but passionate, expect young Canadians to get more organized and effective as a political and economic force as they strive and struggle to realize the Canadian Dream.


Don Marks is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2013 0

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