Bank of Canada governor tells youth to work for free

By Pat Watson Wednesday November 12 2014 in Opinion
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If you want to know what the policymakers in government are thinking, then reflect on Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz’ advice to the great cohort of 20-somethings now unemployed or underemployed. Poloz’ solution to your problem is that you should work for free to make yourself more attractive to employers.


There is no doubt that a person offering to give his or her labour for no pay would be very attractive to many employers who are very focused on their bottom line. At the same time, there has been a long trend of squeezing more work out of fewer persons to just that end. Take a look at what the Bank of Nova Scotia did recently: With a reported profit of $2.35 billion in the last three months alone, that organization is nevertheless about to layoff some 1,500 people.


When people like Poloz derisively and patronizingly suggest young people get out of their parents’ basements and work for free, what he is saying is that it is their own fault that they do not have something to do.


So it is not about a new world economy that has transformed into a vortex that continually sucks money into the coffers of that so-called wealthy one per cent? Young people who committed themselves to years of tertiary study and have ended up with significant debt from it are now more content to live in the basement. Playing video games, I suppose.


In Cuba, where it would no doubt be possible to automate the production of those trademark Cuban cigars, the production remains labour intensive so that there is maximum opportunity to create employment.


Jobs are about more than just making money; they are about being engaged in meaningful activity for a good portion of our waking lives.


But that does not preclude the fact that there is a dollar sign attached to everything that requires having that job. There is the cost of transportation to get to and from the place of employment. For those who work from home there is the cost of shelter and electricity to run computers, sewing machines or whatever equipment is required to get the work done. As strange as it may seem to someone with the human resources outlook of Poloz, there is also the need for proper nutrition in order to be able to contribute well on the job. The last time I was in the supermarket they were not handing out baskets of food for free.


We are in difficult times when it comes to youth employment. This trend is an after effect of the post-World War II baby boom. Added to the “boomers” staying in the workforce longer, the market economy now requires more technical workers.


Who is advising these young people about what they should really be training for after high school? There are countries that saw what was coming and began preparing their younger generation for it. The vocational education policy in Finland, for example, is one that seems to be working as it begins apprenticeships and training in high school. Training is also government funded so that those least able to pay are covered.


Poloz should recall that there is a name for having your labour taken for free. And no, it is not called volunteering. It is called slavery.


A note on traffic safety…

One dead, two critically injured and a bus embedded into a bank building. The early morning traffic accident in Toronto’s northeast end on Sunday was what the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Andy Byford described as a “shocking” scene. The details of what actually occurred are still to come. This was not the first time a TTC bus has been involved in an accident causing death, so with a public transit system that is no longer the world model for how to run such a service, should we be worried?


To be clear, it is well known that the TTC gives a very high priority to passenger safety. But who hasn’t heard complaints from other road users that the drivers of those big vehicles push their weight around a bit? We know that there is a lot of competition for space and access on the roads. Our transportation woes continue.


Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose

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