10/02/2012 07:39 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST

Canada's Young Face Shifting Social Landscape


Canada's young people are entering adulthood at a time of "seismic shifts" in the social landscape, an era in which the usual transitions from school to a career, family and home ownership have been drastically altered, a new report says.

The report from the Community Foundations of Canada released Tuesday draws on research from numerous organizations to provide a snapshot of youth experience in Canada.

“The linear path from school to career, home ownership, and family has disappeared,” says Ian Bird, chief executive of Community Foundations of Canada. “We want communities to recognize that this is ‘the new normal.’"

Some of the key challenges for youth identified in the report include:

- Heavy debt loads and poor employment prospects: Graduating students carry debt loads that average between $20,000 and $30,000 and take an average of 14 years to pay off, while one out of three students enter low-skilled jobs after graduating.

- Summer job prospects dim: Student jobs this summer were at the lowest level since data was first recorded in 1977, and the youth unemployment rate in June of 14.8 per cent was more than double the national average.

- Post-secondary education delayed: In some provinces the number of students delaying post-secondary education has increased by up to 200 per cent, as youth try to improve their grades or save for tuition.

- Competition for work: Baby boomers who are delaying retirement or returning to work after retirement reduce employment prospects for youth.

- New Canadians: About one in five Canadians aged 18-34 are foreign-born and one in six are members of a visible minority.

The report notes that young Canadians are among the best educated in the world, knowledgeable about technology, connected to social networks and animated by global issues, but that there’s a gap between those who thrive and others left behind.

Stress from the changing landscape puts Canadian youth at risk. The report says 3.2 million of 12- to 19-year-olds are at risk for developing depression, citing a study of Ontario students that found “the rate of students reporting psychological distress has risen to 43 per cent, up from 36 per cent in the 1999 survey.”

In many ways Canada’s young have an “extraordinary skill set” to deal with change, the report says, but it is “colliding with unprecedented economic, demographic and social conditions.”

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