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Making up time: Careers and education of young adults disrupted by pandemic, survey reveals

Indigenous and Black youth and those with disabilities most affected by COVID-19

TORONTO, November 30, 2021 – The pandemic dealt a heavy blow to young people in Canada, disproportionately affecting their careers and educational paths, and especially those who are Indigenous, Black or have disabilities, according to a new survey from the Environics Institute.

The survey, which focused on the experiences of young people aged 18 to 34 in the pandemic, reveals that the greater insecurity of younger workers in the labour market meant they were more likely to lose work hours, jobs or income, than their older counterparts. Indigenous youth were most likely to report a negative impact on employment and earnings.

COVID-19 also disrupted young peoples’ plans to complete their education, and for recent graduates, a post-secondary education was not a buffer against economic shocks.

Putting the spotlight on youth can inform the development of specific policies to help them benefit as quickly as possible from a post-pandemic recovery, the authors note. They suggest that a tailored policy response that closely monitors the experience of young Canadian adults from all backgrounds will be needed to implement an inclusive and equitable recovery.

The question of whether the setbacks faced by many youth in recent months are temporary or will be longer lasting is of particular concern. “The extent to which Canada’s young adults will soon be able to look back on short-term disruptions to their plans, or instead prepare for a lifetime of negative consequences arising from the pandemic, is not yet clear,” the authors state.

Survey results were published in the report, Making up time: The impact of the pandemic on young adults in Canada. It was released in collaboration with the Future Skills Centre and the Diversity Institute.

Read the full report here.


  • Workers under 25 were most likely to lose work hours in the pandemic. Youth who identify as Indigenous were among those most likely to have had their work hours reduced or to become unemployed (or both), or to be earning less than before the pandemic started.
  • The pandemic caused disruption not only to the labour market but also to education. Among those in the youngest age cohort (age 18 to 20), one in four stopped or postponed their post-secondary studies as a result of COVID-19.
  • Young people who identified as Indigenous, Black or persons with disabilities were much more likely than average to have stopped or postponed their post-secondary education due to the pandemic.
  • Among those age 18 to 24, the negative impact on employment was felt more and not less acutely as educational attainment rose. Those who recently finished post-secondary education and were looking to establish themselves in the labour market did not benefit from the buffer of post-secondary education to the same extent as older graduates did.


It will be vital to develop policies, strategies and skills training that benefit youth as we move out of the pandemic. Young people have faced a wide range of challenges and we must address those obstacles to ensure that they have the skills to adapt to a constantly-changing labour market and be part of a shared prosperity in the future.
Pedro Barata, executive director, Future Skills Centre
Our latest survey confirms that the pandemic’s impact has in fact been felt more acutely and more persistently among young Canadian adults. For this reason, governments, educational institutions, and employers all need to adopt deliberate measures that take the experiences of this age cohort into account and allow them to catch up as quickly as possible.
– Andrew Parkin, executive director, Environics Institute
This survey shows we have fallen short in addressing the impact of pandemic-related education and labour disruptions on young people, particularly young persons with disabilities and Indigenous and Black youth. As we look at Canada’s economic recovery, increased support, a multidimensional strategy and innovative approaches is urgently needed to bridging the gaps. If we don’t act quickly to invest upstream and address the impact of COVID-19 on youth today, we will not see the diverse talent and leadership we need for tomorrow.
Wendy Cukier, Founder, Diversity Institute


The report is based on the Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. A poll conducted in June 2021, the third wave of the Survey on Employment and Skills, examined the impact of the pandemic on various age groups. This survey of 5,913 adults across the country included a large sample of young people – 2,648 respondents aged 18 to 34. Researchers aimed to gain a more in-depth understanding of the pandemic’s impact on Canadians in different age groups and other demographics.  

About the Future Skills Centre

The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. We believe Canadians should feel confident about the skills they have to succeed in a changing workforce. As a pan-Canadian community, we are collaborating to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead. The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.

About the Environics Institute

The Environics Institute for Survey Research (www.environicsinstitute.org) was established by Michael Adams in 2006 to promote relevant and original public opinion and social research on important issues of public policy and social change.

About Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute

The Diversity Institute conducts and coordinates multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research to create practical strategies to advance skills and employment opportunities for women, racialized people, newcomers, Indigenous people, persons living with disabilities and others. The Diversity Institute is home to unique programs such as the Advanced Digital and Professional Training Program (ADaPT) as well as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub aimed at building an inclusive innovation ecosystem. 


Media Contact

Eglantine Ronfard
Communications Manager
Future Skills Centre

The author of the report is available for media interviews in English and French.