Work aspirations and attitudes in an era of labour market restructuring: a comparison of two Canadian cohorts

This article tests the assumption that youth’s work attitudes are changing to reflect the restructured labour markets that often are taken as a characteristic of late-modernity. Comparing 1985 and 1996 cohorts of high school leavers in a Canadian city, we find that occupational aspirations increased significantly since 1985, especially among females, in ways consistent with employment trends in a service-based economy. However, the 1985 and 1996 youth cohorts wanted very similar conditions in a job, and in each cohort we observed significant gender differences. General attitudes towards work and education also remained fairly constant. We discuss the implications of these findings for school-work transition research and for larger debates about youth responses to conditions of late-modernity.