Challenges should focus government

A story circulated this week showing that young parents are facing a tougher time than their parents when it comes to the cost associated with raising a family.  The heart of the problem is the fact that real salaries haven't moved much in decades.

While it is true that the average family income has gone up quite a bit, the buying power it represents has barely budged.  This is despite the fact that many more households now have two incomes, thanks to the influx of women into the work force.  Add in high youth unemployment and soaring student debt and we have a climate where the affordability of starting a family is losing its appeal.  This is a big challenge which is made only tougher by the imminent retirement of the baby boomer generation.

Youth unemployment is a particularly tough nut to crack.  The benefits of higher education are not what they should be and there are many under-employed graduates in Canada.  It is a worrisome trend that has at its root a society that values education, but does not adequately foster it.  Whether that means helping students choose to study in areas that will be of benefit to the job market or employers recognizing that not all positions require under-graduate degrees - likely some combination of the two - the student debt cycle and underemployment crisis creates a lousy set of circumstances for many young Canadians.

What does the convergence of these societal indicators mean for Canada?  It is time to do some meaningful planning, just for starters. 

We need to recognize that young families will be working hard to take care of the social infrastructure that the aging boomers will require, while also providing for their children.  This leaves them stretched (in most cases) to the max and likely less able to prepare for their eventual retirement. 

There is a role the federal government can play in easing the burden facing young Canadian families.  It begins by truly acknowledging the stress of these convergent trends and then developing appropriate policies to address them.  Student debt requires a more creative answer than what we currently have.  An industrial strategy would help focus educators and guidance officers to encourage students into appropriate courses of study.  And we must reverse the trend of piling taxes on the middle class and blue collar workers while providing a free pass to the wealthiest Canadians.

In short, it is time to take stock of the very unlevel playing field and set about repairing that which is obviously in need.  We are hearing more and more about the inequity of our circumstance from ever-divergent groups in our society.  If left unaddressed, more young Canadians will chose to remain childless and the challenges that will present are considerable.