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

By Shier, Michael L.; Graham, John R. et al. | Canadian Review of Social Policy, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

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


Shier, Michael L., Graham, John R., Goitam, Mary, Eisenstat, Marilyn, Canadian Review of Social Policy


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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