Survey highlights millennials’ fears and boomers’ worries about precarious work
OTTAWA—In an innovative survey of both millennials and boomer parents, a poll asked two generations their thoughts about their economic future and the policies affecting it. Both young people in the workforce and their parents expressed deep unease about a future of precarious, low-benefit work.
The poll, conducted by Abacus Data for the Broadbent Institute, shows only a minority in both groups believe the economic opportunities of young people will be better than the boomer generation. And a majority of millennials and boomers don’t trust corporations to create good jobs in Canada, even as governments enact policies businesses want.
“Without a change in direction, Canada won’t see one generation leaving things better for the next,” said Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute. “Young people think income inequality will grow in their lifetime, while their parents worry about how the social programs they’ll need in retirement will be paid for.”
The poll’s key findings:
- There are four times as many millennials who think they will face contract work than what baby boomers report they faced in their life.
- Boomers are more likely to think their children will slip in economic class than are millennials when asked about their future economic status; and about half (49%) of boomers believe economic opportunities are worse for their children than when they were their children's age.
- Only a small minority of millennials (21%) and boomers (15%) believe corporations will work harder to make sure good jobs are created in Canada; large majorities in both groups believe corporations will concentrate more on their profits, even if good jobs aren’t created.
- Millennials are three times as likely to think income inequality will grow than narrow in their lifetime.
- A majority of boomers fear their children’s generation won’t be able to pay for social programs they will need in retirement.
"These findings show people are skeptical that corporations will create good jobs in Canada. They believe most people will be worse off if the government continues to withdraw and turns to individuals to make up the difference,” said Smith. “The survey is a wake-up call about the need for a new deal for today’s youth.”
The Abacus Data survey surveyed 983 Canadians aged 20-30 in the job market — millennials — and 1,064 people aged 50-65 — baby boomers — with at least one child aged 20 or older. The online survey was completed from February 6-10, 2014.
The full report is available at broadbentinstitute.ca/en/newdeal.
From March 28-30 in Ottawa, the Broadbent Institute will hold its first annual Progress Summit — a high-profile event that will bring together an exciting group of policy experts from across Canada and around the world. The issue of youth unemployment will be top of the agenda for this event. Learn more at www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/summit.
For more information, please contact:
Mike Fancie, Broadbent Institute
613-866-3606 or mfancie [at ] broadbentinstitute [dot] ca
Joe Friesen / Globe & Mail
The perception of a growing generational divide seems to be taking hold among millennials and their baby boomer parents, as both groups now tend to believe that the economic future looks bleak for the younger generation, a new survey shows.
The survey, which was commissioned by the Broadbent Institute, found that millennials fear their working lives will be governed by precarious, short-term arrangements and that the gulf between rich and poor will grow. Their parents, meanwhile, worry that the younger generation will not produce enough income to support the social programs they’re counting on in old age.
“Parents across this country are fretting about the economic prospects of their kids. They’re worried their kids aren’t going to have the same economic opportunities as they did,” said Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute, a left-wing think tank. “What really leaps out at me here is there’s a very high degree of angst.”
A feeling of anxiety about the economic prospects of a younger generation is not uncommon historically. What’s not clear is whether today’s fears are justified. Youth unemployment is at 13.6 per cent, unchanged over the last year and down from the peak of a recession that continues to send ripples through the global economy. This is also a period of significant technological change and it’s unclear what impact that will have over the long term. What’s clear is that a sense of pessimism, justified or not, is gaining momentum.
Baby boomers are more likely to say that their children face worse economic times than they did as young people. Just less than 50 per cent of the boomers surveyed said their children’s economic opportunities are worse than their own at that age, compared with 40 per cent that said they were better and 12 per cent that said they were the same, according to the online survey by Abacus. More than 55 per cent of boomers said they worried the younger generation won’t support social programs through taxes.
Millennials are expecting a different kind of working world from the one their parents entered. They expect to work a mixture of permanent and temporary jobs, compared with the more stable arrangements their parents had. They say lower rates of unionization will make good jobs harder to find and are more likely to say they don’t know anyone with an employer-provided pension, the survey said. Sixty per cent say the gap between rich and poor will increase over their lifetime, and only 16 per cent believe it will shrink.
Frances Woolley, an economist at Carleton University, said there’s no question today’s labour market is more unequal. This is a “winner take all” society, as some call it, where the greatest income gains go to those at the top of the spectrum and some, particularly those without a university education, will face a difficult job market. But one thing to consider is that the baby boomers had the good fortune to be born at the right time, an era of peace and prosperity, Prof. Woolley said.
“The older generation has had such a blessed life,” Prof. Woolley said. “Some generations are born in better times than others. That’s just the way it is.”
Matthew Cuthbert is a 27-year-old graduate of the University of Toronto. He has experienced the millennial’s anxiety. He has nearly $50,000 in student and credit-card debt and works at a community centre in customer service, earning $31,000 a year. He and many of his friends are the precariat, he said, a new class of precarious worker. It’s not what he was expecting, but after seven months unemployed, he’s grateful for the work.
“It’s frustrating to watch this break down. When I started school there was so much more optimism around the economy,” he said. “It’s far from the ideal situation that any of us anticipated.“
Recessions are always harder on young workers, but we are nearly five years out from the end of the last recession and there is still no recovery in sight for this important demographic.
Between October 2008 and January 2014, there was an increase of 100,000 unemployed young workers (15-29), so that there are now some 540, 000 unemployed. Even more startling, over 350,000 young workers left the labour force entirely over that same period.Read more