13 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 29 out of school and unemployed: StatsCan

TORONTO – Canada’s youth are more likely to be working or seeking an education than many of their counterparts in other G7 nations, the country’s leading statistical agency suggested Wednesday.

A new study from Statistics Canada analyzed the working and educational paths of people aged 15 to 29 in a bid to assess youth engagement with the labour force.

The study found that 13 per cent of the 6.8 million Canadians in the age bracket were not in education, employment or training — a measurement known as NEET.

That score, which has remained almost flat for the past two decades, is the second lowest among G7 nations, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Only Germany boasts a lower NEET rating of 11.6 per cent, while Italy registered the highest rating of 21.2 per cent.

Study author Katherine Marshall said the NEET indicator has been an effective way of measuring youth engagement in Europe since the 1990s, but is relatively new to North American analysts.

Large numbers of youth who are neither pursuing an education nor working can signal broader systemic issues that prevent youth from fully participating in society as they age, she said, adding Canada’s score paints a fairly rosy picture.

“The Canadian NEET youth population is really quite diverse and is not entirely negative even though NEET in general has a negative connotation,” Marshall said in a telephone interview.

Many of those who do not pursue educational or employment opportunities are addressing other priorities such as raising a family, Marshall said, adding 57 per cent of NEET youth said they were not actively trying to enter the labour force.

Of that group, between 65 and 70 per cent were females over 20, the study said.

People who fall into this category generally do not give analysts pause, Marshall said, adding long-term unemployment trends are the more telling indicators of youth labour engagement.

In that respect, Marshall said Canada is faring extremely well. Only 55,000 young people _ or one per cent of the country’s entire youth population _ said they had been seeking work for more than six months, giving Canada the lowest rate of long-term unemployed youth in the G7.

Men in their 20s have the hardest time finding work, the survey said, adding they account for 200,000 of the 391,000 NEET youth who are seeking a job.

Odds of landing a position increased greatly for those with post-secondary education, Marshall said. The likelihood of finding work jumped by two-thirds for those with a university degree.

“The higher the level of education, the more likely you are to be employed,” she said.

This finding was echoed in a new study from BMO Bank of Montreal, which found 70 per cent of businesses specifically look for a university background when hiring.

Education remains a fairly high priority for Canada’s non-NEET youth, Marshall said, adding the remaining 87 per cent of the country’s youth are equally divided between those who are working and those who are in school.