Bridging the generational gap

Scott Hastie
March 17, 2017
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

The so-called gig economy is the new reality for millennials and it will take its toll.

An ad for Fiverr, a website that connects freelancers to paid opportunities, made the rounds on Twitter recently because it promoted the ridiculous lifestyle that many fresh graduates face. The text read: “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

This ad reeks of the prevailing wisdom found in both the comment sections in every article about millennial employment rates and in many boardrooms across the country. The belief that all you need is “hard work and a positive attitude” to get a job is equal parts wrong and insulting.

A CBC article from March 12 headlined “The millennial side hustle” outlines a common experience for university graduates: precarious work, multiple jobs, no benefits, and underemployment. Someone who is both bartending and walking dogs is probably not fulfilling the baby boomer’s definition of “hard work” because there isn’t the same amount of physical labour involved.

Their work is taxing though; the uncertainty that weighs on a debt-ridden graduate is hard to quantify, but the rising number of mental health issues with 20-somethings is a good place to start.

Keeping a positive attitude is a rich suggestion and probably comes from someone who hasn’t had to look for a job in years. The modern job search system is set up to beat the optimism out of you. When you click through jobs in LinkedIn or on McMaster’s job posting portal, you can see how many people have viewed or applied for the job.

I’ve been looking for entry-level communications jobs and the number of applicants for just one of the job boards is usually in the hundreds. Start to do the math and your optimism fades fast.

It is time that the older generation starts to embrace the facts: compared to 1976, education levels have risen, yet unemployment rates for people aged 17 to 24 have stayed the same and full-time employment rates have dropped. If this demographic achieves full-time employment, it is more likely to be temporary work. These numbers come from Stats Canada.

Lamenting the state of today’s youth isn’t going to solve the impending problems that come with a workforce that is underemployed, struggling to pay off debts and unable to afford a home.

Millennials have proven to be an innovative group that will solve problems when they can. (Seriously, just go to a party where the keg tap breaks and there’s a quarter of the beer left. Somehow, we will find a way to get it open.)

The harsh economy is not something we can solve on our own. We need older generations to step up and create change. If they don’t, everyone will lose out.


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