The role of government in Canada (and the West generally) should be to mediate the ominous trend to a confrontation between uncaring organizations and under-utilized young people. This trend began with the 1991 recession (or even the 1983 recession) and continues today in Europe, America, and in our own Canada.

In 2010 I wrote in this space about the longer term implications for young people in Canada for their careers and for their roles in Canadian Society. Not to suggest that the economic shifts of the last 20 years haven’t had large implications for almost all segments of our society and economy. But the Gen Y (and even late Gen X) and Gen Next Canadians (and for that matter Gen Y Brits, and French, and American, etc.,) have the most to lose, and when they lose hope, we all lose.

This is not a new problem of course – employers operating in their own individual best interests will seek to hire the most qualified people they can, and the invisible hand will take care of society as a whole. I suppose in the sense of a global economy and world wide post-industrial society, Adam Smith may yet be right, but in the mean-time, our current view of geo-national self-interest is in jeopardy, and our sons and our daughters struggle to carve out meaningful careers and lives for themselves.

In the sixties and seventies, it was a given that society interests and corporate interests were interwoven. But this started shifting in the 1980s with the recession of 1982, with the subsequent erosion of the ‘loyalty/life-long employment’ paradigm, and the beginning of outsourcing and offshoring human resources strategies. Employers no longer recruited new graduates as corporate apprentices unless he/she had immediate relevant skills – often software, or perhaps mining! Even with expansive government hiring, the default was employment equity, not future productivity.

The consequence today is that we have almost a whole generation of young workers who have not been socialized to engage productively in organizational life. And worse, having seen the abandonment by employers of their fathers and mothers, they are suspicious, even hostile to corporate life.

We no longer see employees and employers as partners in enterprise.

Soon I fear we won’t even see citizens and institutions as partners in society.

I think this is the real work of government – building a positive self-reliant society of career-oriented Canadians.