INTRODUCTION TO SPECIAL ISSUE: “YOUTH TRANSITIONS TO EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT: A MOBILITIES PERSPECTIVE”
Angèle Smith and Nicole Power
This special issue focuses on the geographical and spatialized mobilities related to youth transitions to post-secondary education and employment. The “mobility turn” in social sciences in the last decade recognizes that life is increasingly organized and shaped by mobilities (and immobilities) across varying spatial and temporal scales. Yet these mobilities have only recently been examined and theorized as central to understanding the complexity and diversity of young people’s experiences. The collection of articles in this special issue presents a multiplicity of young people’s relationships to mobilities, particularly as they pursue post-secondary education and employment. The papers are concerned with: (a) the motivations for and expectations of imagined mobility (the innumerable reasons why youth choose, or are compelled, to move or stay), whether focused on the outmigration or inmigration of mobile youth; (b) the lived experiences that youth have in their mobility practices (focusing on multistranded relationships between places of origin and destination, or recognizing the temporality of that mobility); and (c) the value that these youth mobility studies have for policy issues and policy recommendations. The papers in this issue are case studies concerned with youth mobility prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They use qualitative and quantitative methods, representing inter- and cross-disciplinary approaches from anthropology, sociology, education, communication, and rural development studies. They derive from a collaboration through the On the Move Partnership, an 8-year interdisciplinary research initiative with a key focus on young people’s employment- and education-related geographical mobilities in Canada.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A SCHOOL? EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF REMOTENESS FROM A SCHOOL ON CANADIAN COMMUNITIES’ ATTRACTION AND RETENTION OF SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
Karen Foster, Ray Bollman and Hannah Main
Many Canadian communities, especially rural communities, are concerned about youth outmigration as a cause of population decline, which is associated with fewer services and amenities. Proponents of keeping underattended schools open argue that removing a school from the community means that fewer families will want to live there, and that more families will consider leaving. Others view school closures as a rational response to population decline. Still other perspectives complicate the correlation between schools and population, noting phenomena such as children “learning to leave” and “place attachment” that modulate the temptation to move away. This paper offers an empirical test of discursive connections between school closures and mobilities by studying the population change of school-age children in Canadian census subdivisions indexed by distance to the nearest school. Based on this method, we conclude that there is a positive correlation between the school-age population in a community and proximity to a school in that community. Although our data do not answer the question of whether school closures cause population decline, or such a decline causes school closures, or both, we provide a quantitative foundation on which to ask it.
BEATING BROKE BY GETTING OUT? EXAMINING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PERSONAL DEBT AND COMMUNITY-OUTMIGRATION
Alyssa Gerhardt and Karen Foster
Scholarship on young people’s geographical mobilities tells us that young adults move away from their childhood communities for a complex mix of economic “push-pull” reasons, including relationships, aspirations, attachments to place, identity, and belonging. In this abundant research, particularly that which focuses on youth outmigration from rural and peripheral communities, there is surprisingly little attention paid to an issue that is top-of-mind for many young adults today: personal debt. In this paper, we draw insights from extant literature on youth mobilities to make the case for a greater examination of the role of personal debt in young people’s migration decisions. We hypothesize that youth and debt increase a person’s likelihood of moving away from peripheral regions. We test this hypothesis using data from a 2019 survey of Atlantic Canadians and find some support for it, and some interesting nuance, suggesting that there is good reason to examine debt’s role in youth mobilities in greater detail.
THE COMPLEX MOBILITIES OF RURAL VERSUS URBAN YOUTH: MOBILITY INTO AND OUT OF THE PARENTAL HOME AND ONE’S COMMUNITY
E. Dianne Looker
This paper examines the options facing rural versus urban youth as they negotiate the complex mobilities of moving into adulthood. Specifically, it looks at the links between geographic mobility into and out of one’s home community, and mobility into and out of the parental home. Qualitative and numeric data from a longitudinal survey of 1200 youth provide insight into these transitions. Leaving the parental home is clearly a process rather than an event, and for many it is subjective and ambiguous. More rural youth than urban expected to leave both their parental home and their community, for education and work, and more in fact did leave, by age 19 and 22. This pattern reflects the often limited educational and work options in rural areas. Many youth returned to the parental home for varying lengths of time; again, more rural than urban youth followed this pattern. Urban youth more often have the option of staying close to home to pursue further education or find a job. The parental home serves as an important safety net for youth, especially those who may have been pushed to leave because of limited options nearby. Having the option of returning home gives youth an additional way of dealing with the challenges of their complex mobilities. The results confirm that the pressures on rural youth as they grapple with the mobilities options available to them are quite different than those on their urban counterparts. Thus, rural youth are more often faced with the complexities inherent in the links between social and spatial mobilities.
PRECARITY, AGENCY, AND UNSUSTAINABILITY: THE MOBILITY OF YOUNG ADULT TOURISM WORKERS IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK, CANADA
This article focuses on young adults who travel to work and live in the Rocky Mountain resort destination of Banff National Park in western Canada. This is usually an early work experience in the lives of these young workers, often their first. I discuss the patterns and the impact of the work mobility of young adult tourism workers using three different frames of understanding: (a) the precarious employment associated with the tourism industry itself; (b) the specific place and community of Banff and how it shapes particular conditions of precarity and agency within the tourism industry and for young tourism workers’ experiences; and (c) the young adult tourism workers themselves — their motives for work and travel, their experiences of work, and their agency in navigating the tourism industry in Banff. Using these three frames, I examine the impact of precarity and agency on the transfer of work knowledge, on the sustainability of the tourism industry work and the community, and on the young adult tourism workers’ future work experiences. It is critical to examine work precarity, worker agency, and job and community sustainability in order to understand more fully the experiences of mobility of young adult tourism workers, and their early work experiences. This is all the more important as, in a climate of economic change and restructuring, young adult workers are becoming central to the consideration of employment policy issues.
Mobility for work and education among young people has been a key feature of contemporary life. Drawing on focus groups with youth living in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as key informant interviews with people who work for community-based organizations that serve youth, I examine the relationship between young people’s employment- and education-related geographical mobilities and precarity. I draw on recent insights from scholars examining precarity as grounded in both labouring conditions and ontological experience. In foregrounding the experiences and subjectivities of poor and working-class youth, I show how the structure of youth labour markets and of education and training cheapens youth labour, with implications for youth’s capacity for independence. In a context of broader regimes of mobility associated with resource extraction, young people without formal qualifications live precarious lives: they move from job to job and place to place, and rely on family and friends to support their housing and other needs. In this context of uncertainty and labour market volatility, youth expressed disorientation regarding decisions about work, education, and mobility, reflecting the high stakes of not making the “right” choice, and developed a pragmatic approach to work as a way to make a living rather than a pathway to a meaningful life. I conclude by situating these findings as a critique not just of precarity but of capitalist economic arrangements more broadly, with implications for the kinds of solutions that can address structural class inequalities.