CAW Statement on World Day for Decent Work 2012

October 10, 2012, 9:20 AM EST

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The following is a statement issued by CAW President Ken Lewenza on the World Day for Decent Work:

Since 2008, the international labour movement has observed October 7 as the World Day for Decent Work. This is in recognition of the unique challenges working people face in today's hyper-competitive and imbalanced global economy. The downward pressure on wages and working conditions, the short-term, temporary nature of a growing number of jobs and a slow breakdown of publicly-provided social programs and services - all part of a corporate-led agenda for greater "flexibility" - have made our jobs more precarious.

The theme for this year's World Day for Decent Work focuses on one of the most significant economic and social crises we face today: youth unemployment.

Overall, the International Trade Union Confederation estimates 75 million young people are without a job today and millions more trapped in precarious employment situations. How precarious are young workers? During the global financial meltdown, 40 per cent of all laid off workers were between the ages of 15 and 24.

Poor job prospects early in life will limit important skills-building and training opportunities for young people. High unemployment also leads to lower overall career earnings and limits access to social supports like Unemployment Insurance and pensions. Chronic youth unemployment has negative health and social consequences as well: depression, anger, substance abuse, and others.

In Canada, youth unemployment has been on the rise over the past decade. Although, unemployment isn't as high for young Canadians as in other, more economically-depressed, countries (like Greece) it's still double the national unemployment average (youth unemployment was near 15 per cent in August, 2012). It's a problem government policy-makers must address.

A new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report on youth unemployment highlights a number of key concerns that warrant some attention.

For starters, the quality of jobs on offer for young people is declining. Precarious work among young people, under the age of 30, is growing at a faster rate than for older workers. In fact, the proportion of young people in temporary jobs has nearly doubled since 1997.

The official youth unemployment rate may be relatively low compared to other nations, but that doesn't reflect the rate of under-employment - including those young people caught in dead-end jobs and taking on these jobs involuntarily. Youth underemployment sits at 20 per cent. That's one-in-five. That's cause for concern.

Federal initiatives to tackle youth unemployment (including the Youth Employment Strategy) have been, despite their best intentions, frustratingly ineffective. To be fair, many of these programs aren't equipped with sufficient resources to tackle the full extent of Canada's youth unemployment challenges today. Private businesses continue to sit on their hands, opting not to invest in young workers. It's up to government to take the lead.

Our union will keep on the federal government, urging them to launch a national good jobs summit. We think a multi-stakeholder summit must ultimately lead to a comprehensive good jobs strategy for Canada. And this strategy must include clear and concrete proposals for how we create quality job opportunities for the next generation of workers.

This could include financial incentive programs for businesses, as well as NGOs, to hire young workers. It could also include new government spending of long-overdue infrastructure projects, putting young people to work on our roads and in our factories. And it could require government's to hire young workers themselves - perhaps within a massive job-creating initiative designed to solidify and modernize our public service, from environmental scientists and researchers to health care professionals and other service providers - infusing our workplaces with bright, young talent.

Lewenza is urging CAW members to contact federal labour minister Lisa Raitt, urging the federal government to take immediate action in addressing youth unemployment in Canada.

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