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Atlantic youth more educated, but lag in employment and wages: APEC

Young adults in Atlantic Canada are better educated than youth a generation ago, and more than three quarters of them are employed, according to a new report card from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC). 

The report card concerns youth aged 25-29.

About 72 per cent of Atlantic youth aged 25-29 have a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to one-half in 1990.

Most of the increase in post-secondary education has been at the university level; 31 per cent of youth aged 25-29 have a degree, more than double the number from 1990, APEC says.

“In terms of educational attainment, Atlantic youth compare favourably with the rest of Canada,” said Fred Bergman, APEC’s senior policy analyst. “Nova Scotia youth between 25 and 29 years of age have the highest proportion of graduate degrees in the country at 11.6 per cent, while Prince Edward Island ranks third at 9.7 per cent, just behind Ontario.”

The proportion of the youth labour force in Atlantic Canada without a high school diploma is now 3.8 per cent, this equates to 4,400 individuals. 

Still, the three Maritime provinces have the lowest rates in the country, with Newfoundland and Labrador also below the 5.6 per cent national proportion of individuals who do not have a high school diploma.

More than three out of four (76 per cent) people in the 25-29 age bracket are employed, but this is below the national rate of 79 per cent. Only those in Prince Edward Island exceeded the national average last year.  In addition, the average hourly earnings for young workers are $20.49 in the in the Maritimes, less than the $23.55 national rate. These factors contributed to a net out-migration of 3,750 — or 1.3 per cent of the youth population — in 2015/16.

“Those who leave earn more than those who stay,” said Bergman.  “According to a recent Statistics Canada study, one year after graduation, males with an undergraduate degree who left the Maritimes earned 24 per cent more than their peers who stayed.  The difference was 10 per cent or less for females and those with a graduate degree.”

Bergman says retaining a higher proportion of the 13,400 international university students in the region is one way of offsetting the out-migration of domestic students.

The report card also finds not all Atlantic youth are well-placed to succeed. There were about 27,200 in the 25-29 age group last year who are described as NEET — neither employed nor in education or training.  The four Atlantic provinces have the highest NEET rates in Canada.

“Reducing the number of youth that fail to complete high school or are otherwise disengaged is important both for their welfare as well as for employers facing a shrinking labour force,” Bergman said.

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