OTTAWA, ONTARIO, September 18, 2018 – Young Canadians remain optimistic about the future and are heavily focused on financial stability, working hard and helping others – but are concerned about the plight of Indigenous Canadians, the impact of technology and levels of stress, according to a wide-ranging study of young Canadians commissioned by the Horatio Alger Association of Canada.
The first-of-its-kind survey polled more than 2,000 Canadians aged 14-23. The results challenge much of the conventional wisdom about young Canadians and sheds lights on the world view of “Generation Z” – the group of people born in the mid- to late-1990s, after the so-called “Millennials”.
The results were part of a report unveiled at an Ottawa press conference this morning featuring the Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s 28th Governor General and Member of the Horatio Alger Association of Canada; Prem Watsa, Horatio Alger Association of Canada President; Nik Nanos, Chair of Nanos Research, the firm that conducted the survey; and report author Dr. Michelle Pidgeon, Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University and director of The Centre for the Study of Educational Leadership and Policy (CSELP).
“We can feel confident about the future of Canada when we listen to the Voices of our Youth – Generation Z. The findings are clear: young Canadians are resilient, optimistic, and value hard work. They care about big issues like Indigenous reconciliation, affordable housing and poverty,” said Mr. Johnston, who moderated a panel discussion about the report’s findings with a group of Horatio Alger scholarship recipients. “But while there is good news, we can’t be complacent. Young people feel real pressures – such as financing education and finding a good job – and have real worries, such as the impact of technology on their lives and being bullied.”
“The Horatio Alger Association exists to help students in need receive a quality post-secondary education,” said Mr. Watsa. “This study shows that equality of opportunity in education is an important policy goal and should occupy a bigger part of our public debate. Education is a key component in creating a meritocratic society. Young people looking for a leg up deserve to be helped. We hope this study helps policy makers improve in this area.”
Among the key findings outlined in the report:
- What makes for a successful life: The report found that for today’s youth, hard work is more important than luck in achieving a successful life (79%). Financial stability (84% of high school students and 88% of high school graduates) and helping others (85% of high school students and 86% of graduates) are the two most important factors for achieving a successful life.
- Optimism for the future: No less than 74% of high school students and 71% of graduates are “hopeful” or “somewhat hopeful” for the future.
- Satisfaction with the government: The report found that Canadian youth are generally satisfied with the government in Canada and that they have a strong level of confidence in its institutions, but that they believe the government can improve its approach in areas such as increasing access to affordable housing and addressing homelessness and poverty. 54% of high school students and 63% of graduates have confidence in the health care system and slightly over 50% of high school students and graduates have confidence in the RCMP, local police, and the military.
- Indigenous issues: Indigenous issues matter to young people in this country. The Report indicates that 61% of high school students and 63% of graduates feel that all Canadians are responsible for the Calls to Action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to make change in Canadian society. Regarding the quality of life on reserves, 32% of high school students and 35% of graduates feel the government is doing a “poor” or “very poor” job.
- Impacts of technology: The findings in the report indicate that technology has both positive and negative impacts on young people. Although technology acts as a research tool for students, it can also be a distraction. 76% of high school students and 79% of graduates feel that technology has a “very positive” to “somewhat positive” effect on their technology skills, while 74% of high school students and 76% of graduates feel that technology has helped their ability to research and find information. 27% of high school students and 32% of graduates feel that technology has a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” impact on their life skills.
- Facing challenges and managing stress: The report indicates that the main pressure for high school students is to do well in school (66%), while graduates feel that their top pressure is to have their lives figured out (77%). The report demonstrates that financial independence is a key concern for young people today, with 59% of Graduates and 31% of high school students working. The graduates reported working either full-time (50%) or part-time (50%), whereas high school students are working mostly part-time (84%).
- Pressure to do drugs: The report indicates that the least amount of pressure experienced by youth includes the pressure to do drugs. 70% of high school students and 75% of graduates reported that they did not feel compelled to use drugs.
- Role of parents: Regarding the role of parents in young people’s lives, 72% of high school students and 69% of graduates felt that their parent(s)/guardian(s) “worry a lot” or “somewhat worry” for their personal safety. 59% of high school students and 61% of graduates also felt that their parent(s)/guardian(s) worry either “a lot” or “somewhat” for their personal health. The report found that 11% of high school students and 25% of graduates felt that their parent(s)/guardian(s) paid little or no attention to their school work or classes.
- Life preparedness: The report found that 17% of high school students feel that schools are doing “a very good job” of preparing them with the skills needed in life, while more than 36% feel that their schools are doing “somewhat a good job”, 29% feel that their schools are doing an “average job”, 12% think that their school are doing “somewhat a poor job”, and 4% feel that their schools are doing “a very poor job”. A staggering 45% therefore are not entirely satisfied with how their school is preparing them for life.
“Overall, this study is refreshing and of concern. Young Canadians are hopeful but have some real sources of anxiety,” said Mr. Nanos. “Our research finds that young people today are values-oriented. They are resilient – they aren’t fragile and falling apart as popular stereotypes would have it.”
“Working with the Horatio Alger Association of Canada on this project has given us a better understanding of the environment today’s youth are navigating through. Generation Z does not conform to popular stereotypes and they do not fit into neat labels or boxes. They are a complex group with a unique set of challenges. We fervently hope that this body of research will help educators, policy makers, media and society better understand the key influences shaping the next generation of Canadian leaders,” said Dr. Pidgeon.
For the full Voices of Our Youth report, please visit www.horatioalger.ca/voy. For more information about Horatio Alger Association of Canada, please visit www.horatioalger.ca. Join the conversation on social media using #VOY2018 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About the Horatio Alger Association of Canada
The Horatio Alger Association of Canada, the Canadian affiliate of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., is a charitable organization dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles. The Association honours the achievements of outstanding individuals who have succeeded in spite of adversity by bestowing the Horatio Alger Award and granting them lifetime membership into the Association. Through the generosity of Horatio Alger Members, the Horatio Alger Association of Canada awards scholarships annually to deserving young people in every province and territory. Members of the Association include Alain Bouchard, Dominic D’Alessandro, Murray Edwards, Serge Godin, Wayne Gretzky, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Rebecca MacDonald, the late G. Wallace F. McCain, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Jim Pattison, Gerald W. Schwartz, Isadore Sharp, Prem Watsa and Rick Waugh. For more information, visit www.horatioalger.ca. The Association can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Carl Vallée, HATLEY Strategy Advisors, 514.316.7093, firstname.lastname@example.org