One day, I’m going to be an old, white guy.
It’s hard to believe given how young I am or how fast I can eat a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. But in time – maybe forty years or so – I’ll become a walking dinosaur waiting to be wiped out by some meteor (or a flight of stairs, for that matter), along with the ever-expansive wrinkles and the stuck-in-my-ways arrogance to prove it.
I’m not the only one fated to spiral into senility, however. Take Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, pictured below. You can confirm for yourself that he is indeed an old, white guy. If you’re having trouble noticing this characteristic because he looks like a car that has recently been rebuffed with wax, note that he is not consuming the lifeblood of whippersnappers everywhere, Krispy Kremes. In fact, he probably can’t even touch red meat. What a life.
Anyway, Poloz has said some pretty zany things as elders tend to do with all those iPhones and computers and Tamagotchi (that’s a disease, right?) buzzing around. Speaking to a House of Commons committee on November 3rd, Poloz said, “Having something unpaid on your CV is very worth it because that’s the one thing you can do to counteract this scarring effect. Get some real life experience even though you’re discouraged, even if it’s for free.” He then added more because he wasn’t sure if his echo had silenced the crowd or if the other baby-boomers in the room cranked up their hearing doohickeys loud enough: “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.” And that, folks, is as funny as this article is going to get.
Implicitly, Poloz notes the modern Catch-22: the real gap in an employee’s experience and the wary employer who does not hire anyone without experience. With it, he tags the reality that employers usually do not hire people who are learning rather than producing. And the numbers agree with him on every level. There is a 60% youth unemployment rate in Ontario (13.5% nationally). Moreover, 200,000 young Canadians are out of work, underemployed, or trying to improve their job prospects by working hard in school and therefore accumulating debt and paying exorbitant rents, all the while trying to feed themselves, maintain friendships, and possibly, if there’s time, (but not money because there’s never enough of that) be happy.
Yet this employment gap, while evident, should not be the norm. Legally, it cannot be. Ever since Andrew Ferguson, a twenty-two year old student, died in a car accident after a 16-hour work day at an internship position, many internships have gone the way of the mammoth (who, to be fair, wasn’t paid for his work either). In 2013, the Ontario government forced the closure of unpaid internships at numerous magazines such as The Walrus. Even profit-giants like Bell Mobility scrapped their internship program.
Why? Forget the possible exploitation. Forget the constant torment of being granted a potential paid position if only one does this, but certainly not that. Forget any comparison to slavery, since even slaves were given room and board. Forget the general psychology of not being motivated to do good work because one is not being paid.
What is important, particularly with Poloz’s comment, is that wrestling with such positions divides workers on their financial ability to take on unpaid opportunities. The workforce becomes further stratified by income and class. Only those who have the sheltered wealth to take on unpaid work for the experience will develop the skills necessary to be hired within the pool of ever-dwindling jobs.
It is no wonder that Poloz himself does not boast about volunteer experience on his CV. His unpaid experiences are certainly few and far between.
It’s easy to note hypocrisy, and even easier to fall to the fallacy of it. For example, let’s say he makes between $436,100 to $513,000 a year while recommending that the most vulnerable take zilch. What Poloz did when he did it doesn’t matter (though I wouldn’t mind a Bank of Canada job at 24). What matters is what he is doing and, therefore, implying.
First, the doing. Noting the tenuous connection between labour strategy and economic downturn is fantastic. It’s his job to ensure that the financial track Canada slumps towards isn’t lower than before (or at least, is just as bad). But if he arbitrarily selects a portion of the population to be paid and another not to be, what is being implied is that, while all work is valuable, only some workers are valued.
This, of course, is gobbledygook coming from someone who should know better, especially someone who would hopefully realize that all producers are also consumers, and whether they have capital or not directly affects their ability to help the economy in the long run. Simple stuff, really.
But worse than these obvious systematic connections is the afterthought that those with the power to affect change say it is our responsibility to claw through the mess they made by being drunk on petroleum, taking risky investments, and destroying environmental integrity for years to come. Worse yet, they–with Poloz at their helm–don’t think we’re already doing so.
Look at me. I am writing this from my parent’s basement for an online media outlet that I neither get paid for nor am directly involved in. Call it an internship. Call it indentured servitude. Call it fun. Whatever you call it, know that I’m slapping my head on the keyboard, trying to balance other unpaid commitments too, hoping that I won’t be seen as overqualified for doing all these things. All I’ll get from putting my fingers to the grindstone in every instance I can is a little bit of this, and maybe that, and all the red in between the keys.
It isn’t a lot, certainly not enough to get Poloz’s attention, but it is all I have. That, I feel, is probably the best joke I could ever tell. It isn’t as funny as Poloz’s, though. That, while not personal, was just business. And as such, it was a riot.