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The Globe and Mail

Crippling debt to buy credentials no one wants. Low-paying, short-term jobs that put middle-class prosperity out of reach. And, for good measure, the prospect of a penurious retirement.

That’s the deal on offer to many twentysomething Canadians today, a tectonic shift that could leave a permanent gouge in the national economy.

While young people have always struggled to get established, economists and labour experts say this time is different. Those in their 20s today are facing far more hurdles than their parents’ generation, and those difficulties are likely to linger, with profound economic consequences for Canada. There is diminished job security, the growth of temp work, rising costs for food, tuition and housing and record debt levels. To top it off, young people entering the work force today are far less likely to retire with a company pension than their parents’ generation.

“When you put it all together, there is justification for alarm bells,” says Judith Maxwell, past chair of the Economic Council of Canada and contributor to a national study released this month called #GenerationFlux.

“People over their forties in Canada have no idea what it’s like for a young person trying to find a pathway to adulthood right now.”

The tentacles of this new economic reality could stretch over decades. A generation of highly educated people that Canada desperately needs to drive future growth isn’t reaching its full potential. High debt and a late start in the job marker means longer delays in buying houses, cars and appliances – which will have a broad impact on Canada’s growth rates and prosperity.

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