Top 5 Challenges Facing Millennials in Canada – Jobs, Debt, Education, Environment, Living costs

By 2020 Millennials will make up more than 40 per cent of working-aged Canadians. Within the next decade my generation is going to drive the work force, be a major force in choosing  governments, and the most important consumer group for all sorts of businesses.  Millennials will be the tax base that funds their parents social programs and up and coming leaders in business and politics.

Today we’re pursuing post-secondary education, starting our careers, paying back student debt, saving for our first home, and starting our own families. What we do today and tomorrow will have a big impact on what our lives, and the lives of many other Canadians, will look like.

In our latest nation-wide Canadian Millennial study we wanted to get a better idea of what Millennials perceive to be their greatest challenges.   We showed a list of potential issues and asked them to rank their top three.

What are our top five concerns?

  1. Availability of good jobs
  2. Student debt
  3. Cost of education
  4. Environmental protection
  5. Cost of living

We must keep in mind that some of these issues are due to life cycle affects which assume that all Canadians will have felt this way at the same age. The cost of education for example is more likely to be a life cycle effect with many Millennials currently in school or having recently graduated and many baring the burden of student debt Cost of education is on their horizon now, mostly due to their age, but also due in part to the burdening cost of education these days.

Millennials want to find meaningful job opportunities. Fifty-six per cent of Canadian Millennials ranked finding quality jobs among the top three most important issues facing our generation today. Just less than one in three Millennials, 29 per cent, said this was the primary issue.   This is not surprising considering the relatively high youth unemployment rate which last month was reported at 13.6% by Statistics Canada.  Many Millennials were told that job prospects would be good if they got a good education.  For those graduating this spring or getting ready to graduate in the near term, those prospects are not so good.

When asked in an open-ended question about what challenges Millennials face, some mentioned the difficulty managing expectations of our parents and society. Uncertainty about job prospects adds to our concern.

Pollution, climate change and environmental destruction are some of the key issues Millennials brought up when we asked them about the biggest problems their generation faces. Just less than a third of the Millennials surveyed (29 per cent) would rank pollution and environmental damage among the top three primary issues facing our generation.

With that in mind, the cost of living is also eating away at whatever income the Millennials have coming in. The price of food, gas and other consumer goods affect all Canadians, and for Gen Y too, this is one of our top five problems as a generation today.

Our survey also asked about affordable housing and access to quality health care. While these things were also seen as a concern for our generation they fell outside of the top five concerns.

Hopefully no one is surprised that only a very small number of people in the GenY generation put high priority on decriminalization of marijuana.

Table 1 – Of the following issues, please rank the top three that you consider to be the most important facing your generation in Canada today (N=1,004)

top 5 issues

Source: October 2012, Abacus Data Millennial Data Survey

What does this all mean to Millennials?

Millennials see that the high cost of education and a competitive job market as a daunting reality. Time will tell if this daunting reality causes rippling negative effects on their lives.

What do you think will happen?

What does it mean for businesses and employers?

Right now Millennials are starting their adult lives, paying down student debt, starting to think about saving for a home or making other big purchases. The Millennials have high hopes of what they want to achieve, and anything that can make it easier for them to get closer to their goals will be adopted.

Millennials are looking for meaningful employment that can help them achieve their career and life goals. Millennials want to contribute to a greater social purpose and they expect the organizations that they work for will contribute as well. The company that they work for is just as important as the job role they have.

Which companies are embracing the Millennial way of life?

What does it mean for government and political parties looking to earn Millennial votes?

This generation sees big gaps where in large part, government is not taking our interests into account. The cost of living, cost of education and frustrating job market make it difficult for the Millennials to look beyond to other issues like health care, housing costs and retirement security.

As this group transitions to the next phase, beyond graduation key concerns will change too. It is up to government and policy leaders to anticipate these concerns and make changes to keep this generation happy.

Can the government and political parties engage this generation and keep up?

The Canadian Millennials Research Project

In 2011 Abacus Data launched its Canadian Millennial Research Practice to help Canadian businesses, associations and government ask the questions they need answered about my generation, the right way. Our latest survey was in the field between Oct. 25 and Oct. 28 2012 and 1,004 Canadian Millennials completed our online survey.

Jaime is an Analyst at Abacus Data and a thought leader for its Canadian Millennials research practice.

Contact Jaime Morrison:

T: 613-232-2806



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