There is growing inequality in Canada as more and more people are being left behind. That inequality has many faces. Increasing inequality has a young face, as Millennials are seeing the social and economic marginalization of their generation.
Millennials are inheriting an increasingly insecure future. In fact they are faced with the very real prospect of being worse off than their parents’ generation.
Niki Ashton, NDP Critic for Jobs, Employment and Workforce Development wanted to hear from Millennials, their families and their communities. She traveled to 14 cities in 9 provinces and one territory over a period of six months to meet stakeholders and hold public consultations. Niki also hosted a first-of-its-kind national forum in Ottawa on the emerging crisis of precarious work in the Millennial generation.
We heard that Millennials are facing significant challenges: high tuition and unprecedented levels of debt just to get the education needed to actively participate in the job market; the expectation that they should work for ‘experience’ rather than a paycheque; increasingly precarious, low-waged work with little to no job security or benefits; a housing market that is out of reach; a lack of social supports for health needs and child care.
The feedback was blunt – even emotional. Many people told us how important it was for them to be heard. Many said it was important that Millenials realize that they are not the only people facing these challenges. Millennial Canadians made it clear they are not willing to be marginalized as a generation.
One thing is clear: the federal government doesn’t get it. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have made it clear that they think young people should get used to precarity and prepare for a life of insecurity.
Millennials reject the idea that precarity and inequality are inevitable and that an entire generation of young people should be ignored.
We heard clearly that Millennials are not alone. We heard from parents and grandparents that they want to be able to give their kids more opportunities than they were afforded -- not less. Whether we’re young or old, we’re in this together. It’s time to roll up our sleeves in solidarity and create the system change that will give everyone the chance live in dignity and respect.
This call to action represents what we heard from Canadians. It is based on the clear recognition that change won’t just happen. We need nothing less than a movement that seeks change to make Canada a fairer and a more prosperous country for everyone.
The solution starts by recognizing that we need a fair economy that works for everyone.
GOOD JOBS AND FAIR WAGES
The rise of precarious work is a clear sign that the status quo is not working. Too many Canadians with full-time jobs can’t break the poverty cycle. Most new jobs are part-time and low-waged with little to no benefits. We must ensure we are creating good jobs that and livable communities. We can, and must, do better.
“More and more of us are working in a situation where we don’t have access to benefits, we have no job security, where we are working multiple different jobs and in different jobs – month-to-month and even week-to-week.” – Stephanie Nakitsas, Urban Worker Project
It’s time to:
- Lead the way with a $15 federal minimum wage and pay equity.
- Ensure all internships are paid.
- Regulate unfair practices in the temporary worker agency industry and create limits on the use of temporary part-time staff to fill full-time jobs.
- End migrant worker exploitation by immediately creating pathways to immigration status for migrant workers.
- Support local businesses, social enterprise, and good jobs with a federal ‘buy local’ community benefits procurement policy.
- Ensure young people have the right to join a union through card checks and automatic certification.
- Oppose unfair trade deals that are unfair for working Canadians.
IMPROVED SOCIAL SAFETY NET
As Canadians we are proud of our social safety net, but thanks to precarious work young Canadians are experiencing firsthand the need to expand our social supports. Many Millennials have no private benefit plans. With only 38% of Canadians able to access employment insurance benefits, many also face precarious unemployment.
“We talked [to our provincial government] about having a progressive and fair tax structure. We showed them how to do it without an austerity budget and they said they were listening, but then came the budget. Spoiler Alert: they didn’t listen to anything we had to say!” –Alyse Stuart, Common Front NL
It’s time to:
- Enhance Employment Insurance so that part-time, freelance, and contract workers get the benefits they deserve. That means a universal 360-hour Employment Insurance threshold where your best 12 weeks determine your benefits.
- Implement universal dental, mental health, and pharmacare; reverse federal cuts to the Canada Health Transfer.
- Build a fairer tax system where everyone pays their fair share.
- Create a national affordable housing strategy so that everyone has a safe, warm and dry place to live.
- Create a national food security strategy that curbs increasing food bank use in Canada.
SUPPORTING OUR FAMILIES
Economic barriers and a lack of support are forcing Millennials to hold off on starting families and make tough choices about caring for dependents and ageing relatives. Meanwhile, two-tiered pension systems are clawing back the benefits offered to newer plan members.
You can get fired going on maternity leave... Human Rights Legal Support Centre in Ontario received almost as many calls about this issue last year as they got about sexual harassment in the workplace. That’s 1,126 calls; that’s three a day. – Gilary Massa, child care activist
It’s time to:
- Create a $15 a day national child care program.
- Update Canada's parental leave framework to ensure access by precariously employed parents.
- Strengthen Canada’s pensions and retirement savings system and take action to avoid two tiered pension systems.
UNIVERSAL, ACCESSIBLE EDUCATION
With 70% of new jobs requiring some form of postsecondary education, a degree has become a necessity for Millennials. The federal government can make a real difference by making post-secondary education a priority and recognizing that education is a right.
“We need a system that's completely universal and free, that's accessible to everyone.” -Bilan Arte, Canadian Federation of Students
It’s time to:
- End inequality for postsecondary students to ensure universal access.
- Forgive all unpayable federal student debt.
- Uphold Indigenous Canadians’ treaty right to postsecondary education by lifting the Post-Secondary Student Support Program funding cap and allocate sufficient funds to clear the program’s backlog.
To sign on to the call of action, visit www.millennialsfightback.com.