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Gen. Z Meets Unemployment : Nearly One Year Later

The beginning of the decline

Last March, when the pandemic was slowly beginning to take over our world as we knew it, I recall overhearing two girls in passing. I was on the way to the bathroom during one of what would be my final evening classes, when one of them piped up: “What if this so-called pandemic gets so bad that we don’t have to work? Couldn’t you imagine?” The other girl had snickered and said, “I can’t wait to see the day.” Contrary to her belief, that day probably came quicker than she had anticipated.

Flash forward ten months. I can drive downtown on a Friday night in no traffic, the neon club lights no longer flickering into the early hours of the morning. Nothing is packed. Nothing is allowed to be packed. Movie theatres remain as dark and omniscient on the outside as they are inside and I couldn’t tell you the last time I sat on one of those homey-looking restaurant booths at Fran’s. Things just keep getting worse, especially as businesses are fighting to make ends meet right now, with employees both on and off the clock. 

On March. 17, 2020, the first “Stay at Home'' order was issued across Ontario, closing everything except essential services, which, at the time, was a decent-sized list. The list contained hardware stores, curbside pickup, LCBO and beer stores, pharmacies and construction sites, to name a few. Just days later, hardware stores were eliminated from that list among others, making it nearly impossible to secure a job under the full lockdown that had been ordered by our Premier. Many were left completely without jobs, with little to no warning, their financial worries looming over their heads more so than normal. That wasn’t the case for me. I got lucky. I was among one of a handful of my friends who, to this day, has been privileged never to hear that dreadful sentence, “You’re laid off until further notice.” 

Considering the lockdown, I work curbside at Canadian Tire, which, despite the long hours and constant phone calls, is a lot better than being on CERB, or even EI. At least, in my opinion. I’ve never lost my job and I’m extremely thankful, however, I know some people weren’t that lucky. Or they’d get called back just to get laid off again after a set number of days, considering the companies they worked for weren’t making enough to pay them due to lack of business. This is the deal for many restaurant and retail workers, and most office-workers or co-op students had to do their time from the comfort of their own houses. Lacking real experience, opportunities and probably dwelling in their boredom. On top of that, it seems our community is on its way to a growing recession of financial turmoil while in the midst of the winter blues that are quite common around this time. So how bad is Generation Z really suffering? Let’s take a closer look.

Impact and job loss

For those of you who don’t know (although I’m sure the majority of my readers fall into this category!), Generation Z is defined as the age range between those born in 1997-2015, and are currently between 6 and 24 years old. Generation Z are often hard-workers, Due to the abundance of bills that many of us have to pay, (some more than others) between rent, phone bills, insurance, school and paying back student loans, it’s safe to say that this recession hit hard and is by no means nearing its end. Experts are concerned as to whether our generation can ever fully bounce back from this pandemic. Our future could look a lot more difficult in terms of affecting our ability to raise children, buy houses or advance our career. Not only that, but a lot of the opportunities we craved as young adults, all of the connections we ached to make stronger and any of the events we had dreamed to attend all shattered amidst the harsh reality that this pandemic seems to be never ending. And to be left jobless after the fact? 

As of Sept. 2020, Ont. has seen an 8.3% drop in active businesses, with approximately 25,000 businesses having closed in Ont. since Feb. What’s even scarier is we still don’t know the projected impact for our city after our current lockdown. A lot of these exiled businesses have been smaller Ma’ and Pop shops forced shut, or clubs and bars that have never had the opportunity to reopen to full capacity. The big box retailers, like Costco and Walmart, are suffering, but not as drastically. They’re by no means clearing the numbers they usually would after a day of sales, not in this tough time. Most seeked-out items, like Lysol and dumbbells are on backorder. Black Friday and Boxing Day sales ceased to exist this year due to government regulations about overcrowding stores. Needless to say, almost everyone is having a difficult time staying afloat through this all, so, just know, you’re not alone. 

With every pro, there’s a con

Students are suffering, that’s a given. Some have been able to save up money working for years, while others have nightmares about the day their rent is due, forking over the last pennies in their bank account to keep their overpriced, one-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city. Those that still have a job have concerns, such as safety and signs of burnout, while the unemployed have to arguably worry about filing for EI properly, having too much free time and the constant worry of if that job will be theirs to return to in the future. 

When asked about her current job as an essential worker, student Sakina Chaudary finds the customers’ individualistic complex very frustrating. “Although I was well-equipped with what I was provided in terms of equipment, like face masks, sanitizer and gloves, I was concerned about working as a stressed university student with a full course load, now worrying about pandemic concerns, as well as bringing illness home to my family from being at work all the time. It’s good to get out, but I don’t want to get anyone sick.” 

Student Samantha Varney feels the same. “Honestly, I’d prefer not to work at the [bakery] because although I enjoy the money and keeping busy, it’s been difficult being the only one in my family working. I’m scared of passing on a sickness.”  

COVID-19 has not made it easy for anyone to search for jobs. Student Lana Mogic’s dreams turned to a reality when she was given a job at a hospital last summer, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. “It would have looked great on my resume, especially when applying to med school,” Mogic says. 

Meanwhile, in co-op, student Sofia Mironova can’t complain. “I was laid off from my co-op job in April, and I wanted to go back there in Sept. I decided to apply for other jobs, and eventually accepted my highest paying role to date as Finance Analyst at Sun Life Capital Management. I always experience financial stress from school, but the pandemic hasn’t necessarily made it worse for me.” 

It’s true that some had it a lot better than others. Student Ryan Linton feels as though he’s in a good place compared to some of his friends, especially financially. “I have a savings account for use on rainy days, so I’m not in a financial fiasco. Outside of the negatives of my friends, I truly think I needed this time off to better myself.” 

Sharissa, who works in the beauty industry, isn’t necessarily in a financial fiasco, but she is getting rather annoying about the off-and-on work, especially considering the circumstances. First [lockdown], we were paid 100% of our regular pay until une, then it was 80% max, and now we’ve all been placed on temporary layoff until the lockdown is lifted. We do get to keep our health benefits, though, so that’s good.” 

Student Mike Jagassar filled me in on his stress about the upcoming semester after coming back from spending fall semester working in Ottawa. “My last paycheck was Jan. 8. I’m comfortable, for now. There’s still the looming fear of the last third of my tuition to pay, along with my car bill. I’m okay, I don’t know what I’m going to do now in regards to EI, or if I’ll go back to my old part-time job. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a trying time.” 

Jagassar is right. The country is seriously hurting from the debt it’s going through and everyone is getting to their wit’s end with everything going on. Everyone has a different situation and it’s important to remember that most, if not all of us, rely on work for a living. However, you nor I could have predicted the circumstances that we’d be in last year, let alone today. So my best piece of advice through all of this is that going forward, you need to know you’re doing your best with what each day is bringing you. We’re a whole year into this thing with no set end date, and we’re still learning to adapt to each day as it comes. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s the importance of saving your money and counting your blessings. It might be hard to hear from someone privileged enough to still be an employee under a large retailer, however, I say that with complete sincerity. If you’re still looking for remote work, good for you. If you can’t handle that right now, that’s alright too. We can only hold out hope that once this pandemic ends, we will find ourselves again. When that happens, we need to pick up the broken pieces of this economy and put them back together again, as best as possible. But for now, just hang in there. I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s annoying, but you’re doing great. Just start believing it. There’s good to be found in every situation. You just need to make the best of it in any way you know how. We’re one day closer to the end of this. 

** Thank you to all essential workers who are working under these grave circumstances. You are heroes in the eyes of all.


Madison Dolman

Toronto MU '22

Madison was born in Toronto, ON. Her addiction to online shopping is best fuelled by a high daily caffeine intake. Fluent in both French and Spanish, Madison spends the majority of her time keeping busy by juggling a school, work and social life, all while making time to write/edit for HC- Ryerson! Often seen sporting Aritzia clothing, her knack for perfect grammar and love for Prison Break are what makes her "unique", but her articles are pretty cool, too.
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