Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Young Adult Experiences with Securing Employment: Perceptions of and Experiences with Employer Discrimination and Expectations Hinder Successful Labour Market Attachment

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Young Adult Experiences with Securing Employment: Perceptions of and Experiences with Employer Discrimination and Expectations Hinder Successful Labour Market Attachment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Globalization and technological advances, along with an increasingly unregulated capitalist market, have had a resounding impact on domestic labor market conditions. Specific factors that negatively impact young adult labour market attachment include the decline of middle-income occupations, increasing challenges in securing full-time and permanent employment, and an intensifying polarization within the labour market between high-skill high-wage and low-skill low-wage jobs (Wilson et al., 2011; Statistics Canada, 2005). These tendencies have been identified in the North American labour market, where current employment trends have shown increases in the proportion of part-time, temporary, and contract positions in relation to full-time employment opportunities. Although not all part-time employment is precarious - there are certain situations where part-time employment opportunities are preferable - for most of the population, full-time permanent employment is desirable.

In Canada, the precariously employed comprise 40 percent of the workforce (Cranford, Vosko, & Zukewich, 2003). Similarly, the amount of part-time and temporary employment has been increasing in the United States. Between 1990 and 2008, the number of temporary employment opportunities rose from 1.1 million to 2.3 million (Luo, Mann, & Holden, 2010); and as of August 2011, 8.8 million people were employed in involuntary part-time positions, an increase of 400,000 from the preceding month (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). These positions are considered involuntary because hours had been cut from full-time employment or these people were unable to find suitable full-time alternatives. Many individuals filling these positions are at the entry level within the labour market, many of which include youth and young adults. As a result, these lower paying and inconsistent types of employment support a continued marginalization of young adults in relation to labour market participation (Wilson et al, 2011; Sawchuk, 2009).

Beyond the need for full-time employment to meet individual or familial subsistence, employment is also an indicator of social status; more often than not, society measures success with employment and type of position. As a result, having employment provides both manifest (financial income) and latent (meeting psychological needs) functions (Jahoda, 1982). Work can also support social inclusion through greater networks while increased activity can improve self- perceptions as well as help instill socio-cultural values, such as a desire for advancement (Creed & Reynolds, 2001). However, deprivation associated with the lack of employment generally leads to deterioration of manifest and latent functions. For instance, lack of employment for young adults can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety (Creed, 1999; Brief, Konovsky, Goodwin & Link, 1995; Evans & Banks, 1992). Also, unemployed young adults are likely to engage in destructive behaviors related to psychological distress, ranging from heavy use of illicit substances, alcohol and tobacco, and participating in criminal activity (Bjarnason & Sigurdardottir, 2003; Gunnlaugsson & Galliher, 2000).

There is currently little research being done to investigate the subjective experiences of young adults who are unemployed and seeking full-time work in today's labour market. Howerver, there is burgeoning ethnographic research on homeless young adults who are unemployed (Baron, 2001), and some broader, survey-based research on the subjective understandings of young adults (Rantakeisu, Starrin, & Hagquist, 1997). There are researchers who have delved into the psychological effects of young adult unemployment (Banks & Ullah, 1988) as well as the social effects of young adult unemployment in marginalized neighborhoods (Bourgois, 2003; MacLeod, 1987; Newman, 2008). In these studies, several factors are identified as contributors to young adult unemployment. …

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