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Younger Canadians feel angst about their financial prospects

Don Curren / Wall Street Journal

Canadians in the millennial and boomer generations disagree about much, but hold one thing in common: they’re deeply anxious about the economic future of young Canadians.

That was the key finding of a survey of Canadians between 20 and 30–the “millennial” generation–who are in the work force, and boomers, or those aged between 50 and 65, by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute.

“It puts [some numbers], for the first time, to the fact there’s deep angst, among both millennials and their parents, about the reduced economic opportunities available to young people, today,”Rick Smith, executive direction of the institute, told Canada Real Time.

“The scale of the angst certainly took us by surprise,” he said. “The strength of feeling here is really quite astonishing.”

The online survey, conducted last month, found that 41% of the millennials expect their working lives to comprise a mix of contract work and permanent jobs, with 39% anticipating a succession of permanent jobs.

That contrasts markedly with the experience of the boomers, 66% of whom reported working lives consisting of a string of permanent jobs and only 10% of whom experienced the combination of contracts and permanent positions expected by the millennials. 

A near majority of 49% of the boomers said things are worse for their children today, while 40% believe their kids’ economic opportunities are better than theirs were when they were the same age. More millennials—56%–said they expected their opportunities to be the same as or worse than their parents’.

On the housing front, more than half of boomers are certain they’ll own their home at retirement, but only a third of millennials are as confident.

Mr. Smith said the relative pessimism about the prospects of working Canadians, both among millennials and boomers, reflects their “lived experiences” in the last few years.

The survey found that 92% of boomers know someone with a workplace pension, with 51% of them knowing some or many. That compares with only 30% of millennials who know at least some people who have a workplace pension, and 20% knowing no one with such a benefit.

A big majority of both millennials and boomers agreed free-trade agreements have made Canadian businesses more profitable by making it cheaper to make things in other countries. But a majority of these same respondents also said trade agreements have cost Canadians jobs and opportunities.

Overall, the survey pointed to concern about the prospects of younger Canadians now, but also into the future, Mr. Smith said.

“This concern is not only for economic prospects of youth currently, it’s also a realization of economic prospects for youth in the future are likely to be dimmed,” he said.

“People don’t view this as a blip. They’re not anticipating that things are going to bounce back, any time soon,” Mr. Smith said.