The Generation Effect tells the story of a generation whose hopes and dreams are shaped by an economy that no longer provides the job and income security that their parents and grandparents experienced. It is a story of the game of life getting harder, not easier.
Baby boomers entered a very different world of work and workplace, one where secure jobs were not a given, but were plentiful and expected upon college or university graduation. The world they left for their children, however, barely resembles the one left for them. Forty years of neoliberalism and globalization have resulted in structural changes to our economy and workforce. Statistics Canada reported the 2016 Census revealed that, for the first time since comparable data was collected, less than one in two jobs in Canada is a full-time and full-year job. Full-time permanent jobs –i.e., standard employment relationships –were the foundation of the Fordist era and welfare state, and the work experience of the baby boomers. Full-time permanent employment is out of reach for far too many millennials.
In this report, secure employment refers to workers who score the lowest on the Employment Precarity Index (EPI). Their jobs are full time, permanent and are provided with extended benefits. Precarious employment refers to workers who score the highest on the Employment Precarity Index. The workdoes not “fit” the standard employment relationship and often refers to temp/seasonal/casual employment, self-employment without any employees and some permanent part-time work.
Millennials born between 1982 and 1997 are the first generation to begin their work careers in this new labour market. Work is hard to find and many of the jobs on offer are temporary. Jobs that provide pensions and extended health benefits are few and far between. In short, when it comes to work, millennials are getting the “short end of the stick.” It is not because they’re young, but rather, it is an outcome of neoliberalism and its consequential employment precarity. It is not that there are no “good jobs.” Some millennials do have well-paying, full-time permanent jobs with benefits and pensions. However, they are relatively few and reflect the growing polarization of jobs and income within this generation. The Generation Effect documents the numerous social consequences of precarious employment, from more frequent mental health and anxiety concerns to challenges forming relationships and engaging in one’s community.
Despite the high level of post-secondary,education only 44% of millennials have found permanent full-time employment. Another 47% are working at jobs with some degree of insecurity including over one-third who areon short-term contracts, freelancing, or working through a temporary employment agency. Millennials have had to absorb higher costs of post-secondary education compared to previous generations. They are carrying high levels of debt upon graduation, often into their late 20s and early 30s. The cost of housing –whether renting or buying –has soared over the past 10 years making it out of reach for many millennials in vulnerable and precarious employment.
The findings reported in The Generation Effectraise several serious questions that need to be answered. How will the continuation of income and job insecurity affect families, local neighbourhoods, housing markets and our healthcare system? What is the long-term impact of low-income earnings on the quality of life and career opportunities of millennials, as well as the impact on future government tax revenues and the ability to fund and provide services? If the millennial generation is having fewer children not by choice but by necessity, and work is in fact a key reason, then what are the consequences of an unintended lower birth rate?
The Generation Effect provides a snapshot of the lives of Hamilton-area millennials working in a labour market that differs significantly from that of their parents. It is a starting point for a long overdue conversation about the current nature and structure of work, its impact on millennial workers and their families, our communities and society at large.