Mr. Speaker, I could see the disappointment on your face when you came to the realization that I have only six minutes to speak on this issue tonight.
There was a time in the history of our country when young people could finish high school and look with hope and optimism to the future. They could get jobs with employers they would potentially work for over their entire working career. Then they would retire with pensions that would keep their senior years dignified.
All that is changed today. For young people, that change has been a matter of increasing concern. As I look at the members present tonight, I can imagine that many of them, in all parties, either have adult children or know adult children of friends who are very qualified, who have worked hard, who have taken some great financial risks in the form of student loans, and who are still unable to get a foothold in the labour market so that they can, as we say in the vernacular, launch.
What the government fails to see in many of its boastful statements is the harm this situation is causing to the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy. There is a cohort of young people who, first of all, are working for free. This is where we are in the Canadian economy. We are compelling young people to work for free.
Again, as I look at the average age of our members here tonight, I think most people launched in an era when that would have been bizarre. There are and always have been apprenticeships, but most of them have been paid. There have been internships, and many of them have been paid too.
What we are seeing today is an economic climate in which employers know that it is a buyer's market out there for labour. No one gets hurt as hard, and hit as hard, by this reality as young people.
We know that the official unemployment rate for young people is twice the national average, but what the statistics do not show are all those young workers, desperate for that full-time job, who are working part time and often working multiple part-time jobs. They are working in casual labour without a set schedule. Their hours are undetermined. They are working on short-term contracts. They are even working for free.
We are letting down a generation of young workers in our country by failing to act in a focused and determined way to ensure that our young people get paid. How is it that we can generate an economy in which the unemployment rate for young people is twice the national average, and we have a government that boasts about that situation?
Members on the government side rarely explain to Canadians what those jobs are that they say they are creating. Do those jobs come with a pension? Do those jobs come with benefits? Are those jobs full time? Do those jobs have a living wage attached to them?
For most young people, the answer is no. These new jobs that are apparently being created do not come with those things.
Therefore, their value for young people is diminished.
We are in an era of what many people call intergenerational inequity. In the very same company, we have young people who will never have access to the benefits and job security that older workers have, and we have a government sitting on the sidelines.
On behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party in the House of Commons, we are happy that the government has finally listened to us around the issue of unpaid interns and has put some money toward creating more paid internships. That would not have happened without the pressure, work, and the fight from New Democrats on this side of the House. I will give credit where credit is due on that one.