Jan 142013
 
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Poor job prospects fuel Idle No More, other recent protests.

by Ish Theilheimer

The Idle No More movement has focused the attention of Canadians on the miserable second- or third-class status of Aboriginal Canadians and their intense and justifiable unhappiness with the status quo. At the same time, most coverage has overlooked one of the obvious underlying causes of discontent: youth unemployment.

Statistics Canada reports that one in eight Canadian youth is out of work and out of school. And of those who are employed, many are underemployed, failing to find work in the professions in which they are trained.

For native youth, the jobless number is one in four.  No wonder First Nations youth are are protesting in record numbers!

If a white kid from Scarborough or the New West with a Master’s degree can’t get a job in this hemisphere, how the heck are thousand of poorly-educated native kids on reserves or in Canada’s inner cities going to get along?

That native youths' prospects are even worse than those of their non-native counterparts comes as no surprise. That's always been the case. What's changed is how bad it is for non-native youth too, thanks to the triumph of the corporate elite and the stripping away of public services.

The story is all too familiar, but bears repeating anyway. Millions of jobs have disappeared in every industrial country, and governments have been stripped of operating cash by tax cuts and giant corporations shipping jobs off shore. Automation plays a key role too. In May, the ILO reported the global youth unemployment to be 75 million, up 4 million in the last five years.

Employers, both public and private, have simply stopped hiring. Governments shed jobs and privatize services — some because they feel they have to because they're out of money, some because they believe in it, like the Harper gang. With each cut, they hire fewer replacements.  Baby Boomers with jobs hang onto them for dear life. At some point, there won't be any more Baby Boomers, but until then, it's going to be tough for  a trained teacher, forestry technician, reporter or historian to get a job. Anywhere in North America.

This factor explains the large number of university-educated North American youth living and working in places like China, Thailand and the Middle East. Or else just drifting.

So if a white kid from Scarborough or New West with a Master's can't get a job in this hemisphere, how the heck are thousand of poorly-educated native kids on reserves or in Canada's inner cities going to get along?  And if non-native farmers, fishers and loggers are being forced to move from their rural and northern homes because their industries are collapsing, it is highly unlikely that native people from even more remote regions can make a living. Some very serious rethinking needs to be done.

As the world sleepwalks toward environmental crisis because political leaders can't summon the will to rein in greenhouse gas production, it's also lurching toward economic disaster because we can't create a workable future for coming generations. In nature, mature beavers cast their young out of the lodge to fend for themselves. We're doing this to our own youth, after having bulldozed all the birch trees they need if they're going to survive.

Idle No More is a passionate rejection of this status quo and this bleak outlook.

Idle No More is a passionate rejection of  this status quo and this bleak outlook. Like the Occupy movement and other recent spontaneous outpourings before it, it has been fueled by young people who can't see careers, homes and families in their futures.

Those looking to inspire and lead us should begin by looking at the wasted potential that youth unemployment represents. When our leaders find ways to put young people to work  (not in uniform) solving the world's social and environmental problems, solutions will emerge to other crises too.

About Ish Theilheimer


Ish Theilheimer is founder and president of Straight Goods News and has been Publisher of the leading, and oldest, independent Canadian online newsmagazine, StraightGoods.ca, since September 1999. He is also Managing Editor of PublicValues.ca. He lives wth his wife Kathy in Golden Lake, ON, in the Ottawa Valley.

eMail: ish@straightgoods.com

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