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Education-to-Labour Market Pathways of Canadian Youth: Findings from the Youth in Transition Survey

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By Darcy Hango and Patrice de Broucker

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Executive summary

1. Pathways from education to the labour market for the Youth in Transition Survey

This study examines different paths that young people take from high school through to regular participation in the labour market, who takes these paths, and what labour market outcomes are associated with them.

It uses the longitudinal Youth in Transition Survey (YITS) to study these issues. The most recently available survey year for YITS is 2004; therefore, the final point at which we can assess the labour market experiences of young adults is in December 2003, when they were between ages 22 and 24. As a result, many of the youth were still in school and so were removed from our analysis of labour market status in December 2003.

The study identifies 10 prominent pathways between education and the labour market, with different pathways being associated with different labour market outcomes.

2. Important background factors associated with education-to-labour market pathways

Females are less likely to follow the pathway of dropping out of high school and are more likely to go on to some type of postsecondary program prior to entering the labour force. They are also less likely to delay the start of a postsecondary program than are males.

In terms of ethnic background, the most salient finding is that Aboriginal youth are more likely than non Aboriginals youth to leave the educational system with a much lower level of attainment.

The presence of a long-term limiting condition is a hindrance to further education; these individuals are much less likely to follow pathways leading to the completion of a postsecondary degree or diploma.

Youth who attended high school in Quebec were more likely than youth from Ontario to drop out of high school; yet if they did graduate from high school and attend a postsecondary program, they were more likely than their counterparts from Ontario to go directly following high school.

A greater number of siblings led to a greater risk of not finishing high school prior to entering the labour market, as does not living in an intact family (two-parent, non-step family) during high school. As well, the typical universally positive relationship between educational attainment levels across generations was found: youth with parents who had a high level of education were more likely to go to a postsecondary program prior to entering the labour market.

3. Linking intervening factors to educational pathways

Marks matter. A very strong relationship was found between grade-point average and dropping out of high school: youth with very low marks in high school were much more likely than those with mid to high marks to drop out and not return. For youth who had attended postsecondary programs, very high marks predicted that the teen would go directly to a postsecondary program after high school rather than delaying.

Working some hours in high school can be beneficial, while working a great number of hours (over 20) can be detrimental, leading to a greater risk of dropping out of high school. Working over 20 hours a week in high school was also associated with teens delaying their attendance at a postsecondary institution following high school.

Individuals who had a child or who entered a conjugal union during their teenage years are disproportionately represented among those who dropped out of high school, as well as among those who dropped out but later returned (2nd chancers); they were less represented among the paths leading to postsecondary attendance.

Parental expectations regarding their child’s education are generally high and higher expectations are associated with higher educational attainment.

4. Linking educational pathsways to labour market outcomes

Almost 80% of youth who were not in school in December 2003 were employed. The likelihood of employment is highest for individuals who had delayed postsecondary attendance after high school, but then either graduated from college or university, and for college graduates who had not delayed their postsecondary attendance after high school graduation. Meanwhile, high school dropouts, 2nd chancers, and postsecondary leavers who had delayed their participation in a postsecondary program following high school graduation were more often not employed. These effects are accentuated when controlling for opportunity for experience.

The odds of employment also increased as the number of months spent out of full-time school increased, for males, for individuals who had no children, and for those who had worked more hours in high school.

The median weekly earnings across all jobs worked in December 2003 were $503. On average, postsecondary graduates (regardless of whether they delayed postsecondary attendance following high school graduation) earned more than the median. High school dropouts (whether or not they returned to school) and those who entered but did not complete a postsecondary program earned less. However, some university graduates were earning less than high school dropouts, though this is at least partly attributable to the university grads having had less opportunity for work experience.

Youth who delayed their postsecondary attendance following high school graduation did not earn more than youth who did not delay, suggesting that taking time off between high school and a postsecondary program does not translate into greater earnings between ages 22 and 24.

In addition to the effects of school pathway, several additional interesting results were found for other indicators. For example, women have lower earnings than men, earning almost 28% less than their working male counterparts. Meanwhile, working a greater number of hours in high school had a positive effect on earnings: working on average more than 20 hours per week increased earnings by about 20%, as compared to not working at all. However, it adversely affected educational attainment.

Also when controlling on pathway, we found that youth who went to high school in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba earned significantly less in December 2003 than youth who went to high school in Ontario. Meanwhile, youth who went to high school in Alberta earned significantly more per week than those who went to high school in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia; Saskatchewan was the only province that was comparable to Alberta.

Young adults who moved province after high school witnessed an increase in earnings compared to youth who remained in the same province. Specifically, earnings increased by 11% for youth who moved to Alberta and by 12% for those who moved to a province other than Alberta.

The most common occupations were in sales and service, while the least common were in management or business related. Young adults with postsecondary degrees or diplomas were more represented among management and business-related jobs, as well as professional, scientific, education and government jobs. Meanwhile, young adults with a high school diploma or less were more represented among the goods-producing and primary sectors and those who entered but did not complete a postsecondary program were more represented among the lowest-paying sales and service occupations, likely leading to their low earnings observed earlier.

On aggregate, young employed adults were quite satisfied with their jobs in December 2003: almost 90% of them were quite satisfied with all aspects of their jobs, while 10% were dissatisfied. Youth who dropped out of high school but eventually returned to obtain a high school diploma were the most over-represented among the dissatisfied group, while college graduates appeared to be the most satisfied with all aspects of their jobs. However, overall, a smaller proportion were satisfied with their earnings than with regard to all aspects of their jobs, suggesting that other factors besides earnings affect level of job satisfaction. Youth who did not take any time off between high school and their postsecondary studies and who then left without obtaining a postsecondary degree/diploma were one of the most over-represented groups among those who were dissatisfied with their earnings across all jobs in December 2003.

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