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Compared to the rest of Canada, urban youth (ages 15-29) face certain economic challenges regarding their abilities to meet their basic needs. Some of those factors include high cost of living, educational commitments, smaller skill sets and lack of youth-oriented employment. With the COVID-19 induced recession, the economic well-being of youth has been impacted. This study showcases how urban Canadian youth are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic by looking at the following topics: percentage of minimum wage to living wage, consumer debt, unemployment levels and dependent housing situations (living with family, shelter system, no housing, government-funded housing).

Across Canada, all of PIVOT 2020’s focus cities have minimum wages that are below living wages. This finding is concerning because inadequate incomes and/or high cost of living can lead to financial or food insecure situations. The negative outcomes are reflected by youth who say, “that’s the dream, to be able to save” or “I’m penny pinching on groceries”.

Another concerning finding is that the job market has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of available work has decreased, and the amount of temporary jobs and unemployment has increased. This finding shows that youth are having trouble generating sources of income.

One positive finding is that consumer debt among youth (ages 18-35) has decreased ($13,405.50 to $13,064.00) during the pandemic. This may have occurred due to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Having lower debt is beneficial to youth because interest rates on debts will be lower. Lastly, dependent housing has gone up slightly (57% to 58%). The small increase in dependent housing might be due to previously mentioned factors like cost of living, minimum wages, and unemployment. Another possible explanation might be that the youth housing situation prior to COVID-19 was lacking to the extent such that the pandemic had negligible effects on it. The increase of dependent housing represents a decrease in the quality of life in youth and/or the inability to afford more ideal housing. For example, the typical housing situation has been described as “there’s a whole bunch of people crowding into one house”.

Overall, this data suggests that youth are faring poorly during the pandemic. Current government actions seem to have little positive effect and additional support is needed. Particularly, cost of living needs to decrease, and more youth employment opportunities are needed. These actions are crucial because they help to keep youth out of poverty and to reduce economic inequality between youth and other age groups in Canada.

Ellison Tong
Data Analyst
Simon Fraser University


Pivot Hub 2020:

  • Index A > Cost of Living > Minimum Wage > What is the minimum wage? > Canada
  • Index B > Cost of Living > Livable Wage > What is the livable wage for the city? > Canada
  • Survey A > Q23a > Canada
  • Survey B > Q23b > Canada
  • Survey C > Q24a > Canada
  • Survey D > Q24b > Canada
  • Interview A > Worries about City and COVID-19 recovery > Toronto
  • Interview B > Cost of living > City Performance > Toronto
  • Interview C > Cost of living > City Performance > Aldergrove

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