In 2011, I appeared in the documentary Generation Boomerang about, well, the boomerang generation. Tonight, the makers of that film are premiering their new documentary — Generation Jobless — on CBC’s DocZone at 9 p.m. PT/ET. I know I’ll be watching, and if you’re in Canada, I’d suggest you watch, too, especially if your adult kids are struggling with unemployment or underemployment. Here’s some information about the new documentary from the filmmakers’ press release.
Today, the unemployment rate for Canada’s twenty-somethings hovers just under 15%, which is nearly double the national average. Why are so many of today’s college and university graduates unable to forge their way into the job market? The new CBC documentary Generation Jobless takes a critical look at the growing problem and the serious ramifications it will have on the lives of every Canadian regardless of age, gender, education or income. Can we fix a broken system or are we destined to betray an entire generation?
Generation Jobless explores the harsh realities Canada’s twenty-somethings face when they try to gain a toehold in the workplace: unprecedented competition from their parents’ generation, and an economy that is being transformed by globalization and automation. Generation Jobless also looks to Switzerland for a solution, where youth unemployment is 2.8% — the lowest in the developed world. In this country, a strategic alliance between government, educators and employers ensures that almost all young people find their place in the job market. If Switzerland can achieve this, why can’t Canada?
Several experts weigh in on what many are calling the most important social issue of our time.
You can watch the trailer for Generation Jobless below.
40% of employers had dealt with parents contacting the company to obtain information
31% had dealt with parents submitting resumes on behalf of their children
15% had dealt with parents complaining if the company did not hire their child
12% had dealt with parents trying to negotiate their children’s salary and benefits
4% had seen parents attend their children’s job interviews!
As part of the survey, one employer even felt compelled to offer the following advice to parents: “Please tell your student that you have submitted a resume to a company. We have called a student from our resume pool only to find they did not know anything about our company and were not interested in a position with us.”
A note from the report to those parents who think they are helping by being directly involved in their adult children’s job search: “Many [employers] responded that they take parental presence in the job search as a negative and would like to see less parental ‘interference.’”
Tide has a new commercial showing the parents of adult triplets — who have all moved back home — doing those triplets’ laundry. I understand that Tide thought this was a cute play on their previous commercial that showed parents of baby triplets struggling to keep up with all the laundry they produced. But yikes! I have heard far too many times about parents (usually mothers, if we’re being honest) who start doing their children’s laundry when the kids move back in as adults. This is such a bad idea. Adult children living at home are adults and need to deal with basic adult functions like doing their own laundry. So, go ahead, watch the commercial below and chuckle (or cringe). But whatever you do, don’t take it as parenting advice!
I do a lot of reading about adult children living at home. In the last little while, I’ve seen more and more journalists referring to the phenomenon of adult kids living at home in their twenties and even early thirties as the “new normal.” Is it the new normal? This doesn’t quite site right with me for a couple of reasons.
First, while the numbers of adult children living at home are increasing, for all age groups over 25, they are still in the minority. Adult children over age 25 are living at home in increasing numbers, but that number is firmly in the minority category. Even for the 18- to 24-year-old age group, the number just squeaks into majority territory (52.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds live with their parents according to researchers at Columbia University in New York based on data from the U.S. Current Population Survey). Fifty-two percent is not a large enough number to say “everybody’s doing it.” In fact, it’s only just over half. Is this the new normal?
Second, when things become “normal,” that generally means we know how to deal with them as a society. But the trend of young adults moving back in with their parents is not yet something we are equipped to deal with in North American society. The rules about financial support are especially unclear. In societies where it really is normal (and expected) for adult children to live at home, there is also an expectation of reciprocal support. Adult children live with their parents and may receive financial support, but they have defined roles within the household that may include looking after younger siblings or cousins, or contributing to the household work and cooking. When parents are elderly, their children are expected to return the favor through financial and emotional support. It’s a balanced system that is not currently in place in the broader North American society.
And third, calling adult kids living at home the new normal minimizes the emotional and financial impact it can have on parents, both of which are very real — and very challenging.
Adult children living at home may be a growing trend, but it is not (yet) the new normal. Both parents and adult kids living in this situation need to plan for the emotional and financial challenges and work hard to make the situation function well for both generations.
There’s something important going on in the homes where adult children live at home, and it’s something parents often don’t want to talk about. It’s the conflicted feelings many parents feel about having their kids at home, what it says about their success as parents (why is the adult child not able to live independently), and their emotional connection to their kids. These are all very real and important concerns, and it’s okay for parents to share these thoughts out loud.
Elizabeth Meakins, writing in The Independent, shares some of these thoughts in the context of her experience with her own two twenty-something sons, both living at home. She starts her piece by describing a dream, in which she initially feels she is being crowded out of her own home by the boys and their friends.
For any parents feeling emotionally unsure about having their kids move back in, or who are struggling after they’re already home, it’s an important read. You can find Meakins’s piece on The Independent’s website.
Several weeks ago, The Globe and Mail ran an excellent piece about the challenges Canadian young people are facing as they try to get established in the careers. As part of that story, they created an “audio slideshow” in which six young adults between the ages of 22 and 29 describe the difficulties they have experiences as they try to get them established in permanent careers and feel like they are truly functional adults contributing to the Canadian society. Their stories are typical of those facing this generation of young people, many of whom live with their parents as a way of making ends meet (42.3% of Canadians 20-29 live with their parents according to the latest census). It’s startling to hear these young adults describe their frustration in their own voices. It’s an interesting series and well worth a listen.
Click on the image below to view and listen to the audio slideshow on the Globe and Mail’s website.
These infographic from The Globe and Mail show two things. First the huge drop in employment for young people aged 15-24 over the last five years. And second, how the average cost of housing compares to the median household income. They are part of a very interesting story looking at the challenges young people in Canada are facing today. You can see the whole piece here.
A report published in the UK by housing charity Shelter shows that 1.7 million people aged 20 to 40 are living with their parents because they can’t afford their own home. What’s worse is that 40% of the parents in these homes think their children will never — ever — be able to afford their own home.
Parents are taking a financial hit, too. Forty percent are buying their kids’ groceries, and 20% say they have less money to spend on themselves.
“Money Matters With Jean Chatzky,” a TV show on RL-TV, is doing a story on boomerang kids. They are looking for parents in the NYC tri-state area who would like to discuss their experience having their child move back in with them — the good, the bad, the ugly — on camera. If you think you fit the description, please e-mail the producer at Seth.Goldman@NBCuni.com.
I am a firm believer that parents should never, ever, ever (is that clear enough) take on debt to support their adult children. It does not make financial sense for a generation nearing the end of its earning years to take on debt to support a generation with a full working life ahead.
That said, I know that some parents don’t heed this advice. They DO take on debt to support their adult kids, and they may find themselves in way over their heads.
If this has happened to you, you need to get your financial situation sorted out. John Skiba of Skiba Law Group has written an article explaining how to proceed with bankruptcy if you find yourself in this situation. You can find his information here.