Monday, 1 August 2016

Young People Looking for Work Face Exploitation and Despair

I recently read an article in The Globe and Mail about how a growing number of people with graduate degrees are either unemployed or underemployed.  You would think that the higher the education you have, the easier it'll be to find full-time employment.  But it's not so simple.  In fact, the Globe article also noted that the number of employed people with just a high school education or trade certificate is growing.  The fact of the matter is that nowadays, if you want a good job, you may be better off learning a trade than spending several years in university.

I remember looking for work after I got my graduate degree and believe me when I say that one of the worst jobs a person can have is looking for a job.  It is especially difficult for young people, many of whom come out of university with a mountain of debt, looking desperately for full-time work so that they can pay off their student loans.  They try to get their foot in the door, only to have the door slammed on them by potential employers. Some are told that they don't have enough experience, leading them to ask themselves, "How can I get a job when everyone wants experience?  And how can I get experience when I don't have a job?"  The answer that the compassion-less conservatives usually give is that you need to volunteer and work for nothing.  Personally, I think this is a ludicrous answer because nowadays, students and recent graduates who are up to their eyeballs in debt can't afford to work for free.  Some of them do, nevertheless, because it's the only way for them to get the experience they need in order to increase their chances of landing that all-important full-time job in the future - or so they think.

Enter the unpaid internship, where young people can find themselves working full-time hours with no compensation.  Now of course, the compassion-less conservatives will say that the compensation is in the form of job experience.  But in many cases, young interns will find themselves doing menial tasks that do nothing to prepare them for the job market - tasks that should be done by paid employees. The sad truth is that some firms, organizations and individuals take advantage of unpaid internships to exploit young people and use their free labour to avoid hiring paid employees, leaving the young interns themselves no closer to a full-time job than before they decided to work for nothing.

The sadder truth, however, is what happens when a young person fresh out of university has pulled out all the stops, but still hasn't found gainful, full-time employment.  In a word, underemployment. Indeed, I worked my ass off in university, obtaining both a BA and a Masters degree, only to find myself working on construction sites doing manual labour because I couldn't find work in my field. How's that for a reward for my years of studying!? Actually, I consider myself fortunate because I was eventually able to start my own business.  Others, however, aren't so lucky and are forced to take on menial jobs just to make ends meet.  So it's no surprise that there are many university graduates working as waiters or retail salespeople.  Believe me when I say that being underemployed can feel just as humiliating and degrading as being unemployed.  I hope I speak for most people when I say that folks who work hard in university deserve better than to be serving drinks or mopping floors.  

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