Canada's youth face career scarring and learning losses post-pandemic, according to a new report released by the C.D. Howe Institute. In Lives Put on Hold: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canada's Youth
, authors Parisa Mahboubi and Amira Higazy find that youth were disproportionally affected by work and education disruptions, which if left unaddressed, could have major life-long effects on young workers' employment, productivity, future wages and life-time income.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed unemployment rates to a record high for youth, although they have since recovered in many sectors. Still, a major concern is the potential for serious and long-lasting negative career impacts, known as "scarring". Evidence from past recessions shows that new labour-market entrants and early career workers face an increased incidence of unemployment in the future and employment in lower quality, lower paying jobs.
Prospects for young Canadians have been worsened by educational disruptions that affected learning, including school closures, inconsistent learning settings, low attendance rates and classroom engagement, and a lack of preparedness for emergency remote digital learning. These learning losses are expected to be particularly significant for low-income and disadvantaged youth with inequitable access to technologies and resources needed for distanced learning.
"Given that the impact of, and recovery from, the pandemic is uneven among youth," said Mahboubi, "it is also important to ensure that services and programs are available to vulnerable youth, such as low-educated, low-income youth and those not in employment education or training."
While Canada has already taken some steps to support youth recovery through the creation of new training opportunities and subsidized high-quality jobs, the authors recommend further action:
- Expanding employment services (counselling and job search assistance) to reduce unemployment duration and recurrence;
- Enhancing labour market flexibility and labour mobility (occupational and geographical mobility) to reduce mismatches and improve skills match on the first job;
- Encouraging participation in and support for opportunities in education, learning and training, and addressing barriers to participation for non-student youth; and
- Increasing support and funding to expand summer school and offering tutoring during and after school for K-12 students, while ensuring students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, receive the supports they need to make up for learning losses.
is a Senior Policy Analyst and leads the C.D. Howe Institute's Human Capital Policy Council. Her research interest focuses on social policy with a concentration on demographic, skills, education, and labour market concerns. In addition to authoring research studies, she regularly writes a column for the Globe and Mail's business section.
is a graduate from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Relations and a former IMCO intern at the C.D. Howe Institute.