Students in Nova Scotia are graduating into one of the weakest labour markets for youth in Canada. Throughout 2016, there were 2,600 fewer youth employed than in 2015.
At times of high youth unemployment, students are especially vulnerable to exploitation in the workforce. High competition for work means that students are forced to take on multiple, precarious, part time jobs. Increasingly students are also forced to work unpaid internships, sometimes even paying to work for free in the hopes of developing experience that will lead to paid work. Governments needs to ensure students are fairly compensated for the work they do - to do anything else would be to condone the exploitation of young people. Banning the use of unpaid internships and eliminating the inexperience minimum wage rate will help achieve that.
We asked all major parties if they support a ban of unpaid internships and the elimination of the inexperienced minimum wage rate.
It is concerning to see that the NDP is the only party to support banning the inexperienced minimum wage rate and unpaid internships. When the Liberal and PC parties say that they will explore options on these issues, paying certain people less (or not at all) for the same work cannot be an option. It is illegal to not pay people for their work in Canada and there is a basic expectation that political parties respect this right.
The PCs identify the importance of “maintaining a competitive marketplace” and the Liberals want to enhance opportunities that will “help [students] be successful”. We have to careful about this language, as young people are often told that they must pursue unpaid internships to remain competitive in the job market, and that this temporary sacrifice will lead to meaningful employment later on. In reality, unpaid internships have created a revolving door system in which unpaid workers cycle through what were previously entry-level positions, and which rarely result in meaningful employment afterwards. In addition, unpaid internships are only possible for people with alternative forms of stable income – that means that the employment marketplace is only competitive for those who can afford to play the game.
In addition to committing to eliminating the inexperienced minimum wage rate, the NDP have committed to implementing a $15 minimum wage. We also applaud this commitment as an important step to address poverty in Nova Scotia.