Young people fighting for their own brave new world

By Pat Watson Wednesday June 13 2012 in Opinion
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You’ve seen the news reports: Millions of young people all over the world are marching in the streets of their respective cities demanding change in the way the system is treating them. These are not situations coming out of the blue. It has been decades in the making.


What young people today are facing – the frightening lack of prospects for meaningful employment and therefore a meaningful work life with living wages – began at the turn of the last century.


When the First World War didn’t solve the tension building between European dynasties, they went forward into the Second World War. Once that ended, as nature does, it tried to equalize the loss of human life with what has come to be known as the baby boom.


Flash forward and we find a generation of young people who have had the benefit of higher education in numbers greater than previously recorded; a highly educated group who have been told that a university education was a guarantee to a good life, but who in reality have little chance for that to happen.


When their grandparents left high school they could start at a company and work their way up, if they had that kind of ambition. Now those grandparents are being told that they will have to work longer because the tax base cannot afford to support them. Older people are staying in the workforce longer leaving less room for the younger ones to enter.


More people are entering the workforce with university degrees but the new work world is looking for hard skills. We need more engineers, for example. Added to that, the Chinese workforce is working with much lower wage expectations than young people here are prepared to accept. As a result, manufacturers have no compunction about setting up their plants in China. And the Chinese government continues to maintain an artificially low value on their currency, making it ever more attractive for business to hire workers there.


The many threads now pulled together have created the current situation.


Then too, it is in the nature of young people to protest for change. When those same baby boomers where teenagers they too agitating for social change.


Today’s numbers – 75 million young people, or two out of every five, are unemployed globally according to the International Labour Organization – give a better sense of their desperation. In Canada, the unemployment rate for those15 to 24 is more than 14 per cent, which is nearly double that of the general population. The unemployment rate among Black youth runs much higher.


Looking at Montreal where student protests have created upheaval in the past three months, it was in fact minority youth who were at the forefront of the early protests.


This set of circumstances will precipitate an entrenched underclass of highly educated people with very poor prospects for the future. In particular, it will be a racialized underclass.


Yet older people are uneasy about their protests. You can hear the older folks across this country arguing against these protesters, saying that Montreal students shouldn’t be complaining since they are paying the lowest university tuition fees in the country. There’s an underlying message of ‘I suffered the cost so why can’t you?’


But we have to grasp that this is their battle, this is their time to fight for the change they want to bring about for the sake of their own survival.


Many students have just graduated from university and are hoping to begin the next chapter of their lives equipped with the standard that society has mapped out as a milestone on the road to success. But the world outside the gates of the university holds a harsh reality; harsher yet, if one is a university-educated member of a so-called visible minority group.


What those respected speakers at convocation ceremonies need to be telling young people is that in order to make it in today’s world they will have to band together in a spirit of entrepreneurship to create their own new economy, because emailing résumés is not going to work.


A note on the ongoing war on females…


So now female athletes who appear ‘too masculine’ have to undergo hormone treatment to compete in the Olympics? If male athletes appear ‘too feminine’ will they have to also undergo hormone treatment?


When will the hurting stop?




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