If Canada is getting older - who are the next generation that will have to shoulder the burden? As I read this article in the Globe this weekend it also struck me that we are in for a huge shift in values. What does this mean? It means more than a shift in consumer behaviour. It means an earthquake in politics, in how we practice religion. What the new values need is a way of getting organized. When this occurs, watch out!
"Canadians in their 20s are the smallest group of young adults in decades, accounting for only 13 per cent of the population. They have abandoned the country for the city in swarms, completing an urbanization that now has half the population living in the greater metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Edmonton-Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
They take on the traditional trappings of adulthood about a decade later than their parents did: the average age to move away from home is now 27 years old, and it is more often young men who are staying.
They are a highly educated lot: In 30 years, the proportion of Canadians in their 20s with a university degree has more than doubled, to 18 per cent in 2001, from 8 per cent in 1971. The number of twentysomethings in school has increased by more than 50 per cent, and the largest gains have been made by young women, raising questions both about the future nature of work and the future prospects of young men.
Those without skills or education find themselves outside the walls of Canada's new knowledge economy, trapped in low-paid jobs and financially unable to start adult lives or even find the money to upgrade their job-market qualifications.
They are not voting. Just 21 per cent of 20s Canadians marked a ballot in the last federal election — a harbinger, political scientists warn, of the generation's political behaviour as it ages. This is the result not of apathy, experts suggest, but ignorance and alienation: There are those who don't know and don't care how the system works, and those who do know and think it works very badly.
What is clear is that Canadians in their 20s do not see traditional political institutions as the route to change or progress. Raised in the years since the Charter, they have a higher trust for the courts than for the federal government. They put their faith in what they see working: While politicians have stalled on issues that young people support — from gay rights to the decriminalization of marijuana — the courts have stepped in and made rulings.
They are the most likely to believe that the route to change lies with advocacy groups, not political parties. They are global in outlook. with the Internet as their public square.
They are also less involved in another traditional institution: the church. In 2001, 21.4 per cent of 20s said they had no religion, compared to 6.4 per cent in 1971. If they do attend a religious service, it is far less frequently than their counterparts of an earlier generation, and the deity they worship is less likely to be Christian — a result of the country's increasing ethnic diversity. The Muslim faith, for instance, wasn't even counted separately in the 1971 census; while its followers are still a relatively small number, it has made a leap since then to become the second most reported religion among 20s.
Just two decades ago — the point at which the Statistics Canada began tracking visible minorities through the census — the percentage of people in their 20s who belonged to a visible minority group was less than 5 per cent, roughly the same as for the whole population. In 2001, the number has tripled to more than 16 per cent, compared to 13 per cent of all Canadians. And their composition is different: the largest group among visible minorities in their 20s are South Asians; the largest for the population as a whole are Chinese. A sign of Canada's now varied origins: In 2001, the census tracked more than 200 individual countries; in 1971, it asked about only 60.
The growing diversity of 20s, and the fact that they are likely to live in the most multi-ethnic centres — the nation's cities and universities — has led to a steady increase in the number of mixed couples. The census looks only at intermarriage by race, not by ethnicity; but one in 20 young Canadian couples fits even this narrower definition. Mixed couples are more likely to have a university education, and are most often someone from a visible minority group married to a white Canadian. In Vancouver, the city with the highest rate of intermarriage, the census puts the number of mixed couples at about 13 per cent of all pairs in their 20s.
And for the most part, these are not choices made in adversity: These couples are proud of the unions that are creating post-ethnic identities, and relatively free of concern for their children's futures. Said one groom on the eve of his wedding: "My mother cannot see the country that I do."
One in six Canadians in their 20s are immigrants, and one in five are the children of at least one immigrant parent. More than half of the second-generation immigrants, as they are known, live in Ontario. By education, they are some of the most successful Canadians of their generation, pushed by working-class parents who were determined to see a better life for their children.
What is remarkable is how quickly immigrants buy into the Canadian way of life." Globe and Mail