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Impact of the Recession on Rural Youth Across Canada

by Ryan Stanga

The recession beginning in 2008 affected nearly all Canadian youth and continues to be felt to this day. First Work set out to understand this impact through Cross Canada Dialogues, a research initiative involving 70 organizations providing youth employment services. More than 2,000 youth across Canada participated in the survey. What has been the recession’s impact on rural youth?

Youth are Younger in Rural Areas

A major factor when considering rural youth is their continual migration to more urban areas. We found 70% of rural youth were 18 or younger compared to only 35% of non-rural youth. Rural youth tended to live in their parents’ home and were less likely to have graduated high school when surveyed.


The research indicates that rural youth have different perceptions of the economy and have felt the recession differently than their urban counterparts. When we re-analyzed our data to control for age, we found that the differences between rural and non-rural youth are not just based on age.

Rural Youth are Less Likely to Say They are Struggling Financially

When asked whether they were having financial struggles, rural youth were evenly split between “yes” and “no”, while non-rural youth were more likely to respond “yes” than “no”.

This held true across all ages. Rural youth under 18 claimed to have financial struggles only 39% of the time versus 50% of non-rural youth. For those over 18, the number of rural youth jumps up to 73% compared to 81% of non-rural youth.

Concerns of Rural Youth

Across Canada, youth were most likely to express concern about finding a job and earning enough money to support themselves. Rural youth were consistently less likely to indicate having those concerns.

The only concern rural youth were more likely to have than their non-rural counterparts was finishing high school (42% vs. 29%).

Implications for Employment Service Providers

The absence of public transportation remains a key barrier to youth employment in rural areas. Also important to consider is why rural youth express fewer concerns than their more urban counterparts. Perhaps rural youth do not feel as much pressure as urban youth or rural parents do not put the same kinds of pressure on their children as non-rural parents do. Either of these possibilities could lead rural youth to express fewer concerns.

Maybe moving to the city is seen by rural youth as a way to improve their situation, giving them hope that their urban counterparts lack. Perhaps the nature of the agricultural labour market distinguishes youth experience from non-rural areas. Employment service providers should keep these possibilities in mind when working with rural youth.

About First Work

Since 1988, First Work and our network of over 70 youth employment agencies has been committed to delivering accessible, high-quality, outcomes-based employment services to youth to assist them in reaching their goals. Join our LinkedIn conversation to offer your opinion on these issues. Simply go to: and join in.

Ryan Stanga is a Researcher with Evidence Research, a unit of First Work. His background is in organizational research and development. He achieved his Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has over 13 years experience consulting with diverse for profit and not-for-profit organizations across the Greater Toronto Area and south-western Ontario.



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