Life, Work, and the Emerging Workforce Study

Young Canadians are more optimistic than pessimistic about the job market

Most think their generation will live as well or better than their parents’ generation

Young Canadians are significantly more optimistic than pessimistic about the job market and, by a two-to-one margin, believe their generation will enjoy a standard of living higher than that of their parents, according to a new Abacus Data survey of Canadians aged 18 to 35.

Close to half (45%) of young Canadians say they are optimistic about the job market for people such as themselves, compared with 20% who are pessimistic.  However, opinions on the job market itself are mixed.  Asked to describe employment opportunities for people like them who may be looking for work in the area where they live, 48% said they were excellent or good, while 51% said the situation is poor or very poor.  Those living in the Prairies and Quebec were more positive about the job market than those in BC, Ontario or Atlantic Canada.

Respondents aged 18 to 24 were somewhat more optimistic about the job market than those aged 25 to 35. Among those currently pursuing post-secondary education, respondents studying in information technology, health, business and engineering/science fields were more optimistic than those in arts or social science programs or the trades.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives commissioned the study in advance of a national conference next week in Ottawa on education and skills.  The conference – Creating Opportunities: Jobs and Skills for the 21st Century – will bring together 200 business leaders, educators, senior government officials and recent graduates to explore ways of equipping more young people to find meaningful and rewarding careers.

“Clearly it is not all doom and gloom for Canadian millennials as some would suggest,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data and the lead researcher on the study.

“Most young Canadians don’t see themselves as ‘Generation Screwed’ or ‘Generation Jobless’.  Most are quite optimistic and happy with their lives. They have established themselves – or are working toward –a career they like and are achieving the goals they set for themselves. Others have not been so fortunate and feel pessimistic, let down, and unsatisfied with the opportunities available to them.”

Will their generation live better than their parents’ generation?

Despite their mixed feelings about the job market, less than a quarter of young Canadians believe their generation will rank below their parents’ generation in overall happiness (22%) or standard of living (23%).  In fact, 46% of those surveyed felt their generation’s standard of living would be better than their parents’ generation, while 32% believed it would be about the same.

But the survey did find that a majority of young Canadians (59%) agree they will have to delay major life events like marriage, buying a home, and having children because of financial pressures.

“The combination of more people pursing post-secondary education, rising tuition and housing costs, and an insecure and precarious job market means that many young Canadians are entering adulthood much later than previous generations,” said Coletto.

A quarter of respondents aged 25 and older said they still live with their parents and only half reported having found a full-time job in their field.

“Young Canadians are facing a challenging job market and most are delaying major life milestones because of financial pressures, but this has not impacted their long-term optimism.  Only a small minority think their generation will be worse off than their parents’ generation and most think their generation is better off when it comes to their ability to pursue their passions and live life the way they want,” said Coletto.

An entitled generation?

Young Canadians are also critical of their peers.  The survey asked young Canadians whether they agreed or disagreed that “many people in my generation want the best that life has to offer, but aren’t willing to work hard for it.”

More than two-thirds (68%) of young Canadians surveyed agreed with the statement while only 9% disagreed.

“Millennials are often described as coddled and lazy.  While those labels certainly do not describe everyone in the generation, young Canadians themselves do appear to believe that many of their peers feel entitled and don’t want to work hard to achieve things that previous generations achieved,” said Coletto.

About the study

These are some of the findings of the Life, Work, and the Emerging Workforce Study, commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and conducted by Abacus Data between March 19 and 25, 2015. Researchers interviewed 1,700 Canadians aged 18 to 35 about their attitudes, perceptions and behaviours toward the job market and life overall.

A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.   The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.4%, 19 times out of 20.

The results were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population of 18 to 35 year olds according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Download the full report (PDF)

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