Poloz's advice half-baked

Stephen Poloz’s recent comments about unpaid work were valid but ill-advised.

The Bank of Canada governor said last week that when youth ask him for career advice, he advises them to seek out unpaid work if that’s all that’s available.

“If your parents are letting you live in the basement, you might as well go out and do something for free to put the experience on your CV,” Poloz said in a press conference last Monday.

With Canada’s youth unemployment rate currently sitting at 13.5 per cent — the overall rate is 6.8 per cent — Poloz’s comments disregard the barriers youth face within the workforce, as well as the inequity present in unpaid internships.

Unpaid internships provide skills, network connections and experience. But these benefits aren’t a substitute for monetary compensation. Under Canadian labour law, interns are entitled to receive minimum wage at the very least, unless they’re receiving a school credit.

Poloz’s “basement” reference belittled the difficulties youth face by equating unemployment with laziness. The job market is limited, and companies continue to exploit loopholes in labour laws to employ unpaid workers.

Poloz’s comments did speak to a greater issue of entitlement that persists within Generation Y. No one is guaranteed a job in their dream field, but some youth choose to prolong their unemployment until they catch a break.

Unpaid work shouldn’t be the alternative, though. If companies can’t afford to pay interns, they should offer paid part-time internships rather than unpaid full-time positions.

Companies aren’t obligated to create jobs, of course, and until stronger federal labour regulations are implemented, unpaid positions will persist.

As the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Poloz is in a position to help reframe the role of large companies in alleviating unemployment.

Journal Editorial Board

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