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A shortage of young workers is brewing in Alberta's service sector

A shortage of young workers is brewing in Alberta's service sector

Posted on: 5/8/2018 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

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The food and accommodation industry has long relied on a ready supply of young people willing to work for lower wages in exchange for valuable job and life experience. In Alberta, this is changing.

A decade ago, there were about four people aged 15 through 24 in Alberta’s labour force for every restaurant in our province. Restaurants had an array of young people to choose from to cook in their kitchens and serve their food. Today, there are just over two people age 15 to 24 for every restaurant in Alberta.

The decline in the number of young Albertans available to work in the food service sector is not just due to the shrinking proportion of people age 15 to 24 (this group represented 15 per cent of the population 10 years ago compared to 12 per cent today). It is also due to the rising number of restaurants in the province. Since 2008, the number of restaurants has increased by approximately 28 per cent.

However, the most likely reason for the decline is the result of fewer young Albertans choosing to join the labour force. From 2008 to 2017, the average participation rate (the number of people who are currently employed or in search of a job) among young Albertans fell by over seven percentage points (the overall average participation rate in Alberta fell by a little over two percentage points over the same period).

Fewer young Albertans available to work in food and accommodation could come at a cost to the sector and young workers themselves. Some restaurants may have to close if they can’t access enough affordable labour and young workers may not be able to gain valuable experience to help them find employment later on in life.

Participation rate, graph

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