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Canada's Finance Minister Joe Oliver speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Nov. 4.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said he wants more paid work for unemployed young people, two days after Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said they should get out of their parents' basements and seek unpaid positions.

Asked Wednesday about Mr. Poloz's comments, which provoked criticism from student associations and lawmakers, Mr. Oliver said the central banker may have been referring to "the Catch-22" of young people who "can't get a job because they don't have the experience and they don't have the experience because they can't get a job."

At the same time, Mr. Oliver told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday, "What we are obviously looking for are more paying jobs for youth."

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Mr. Poloz highlighted in a Nov. 3 speech in Toronto the labour- market phenomenon of "adult children living in the basement," and estimated there are 200,000 young Canadians that want to work or work more. He said later at a press conference they should consider taking unpaid work to avoid the "scarring effect" of long-term unemployment.

"Having something unpaid on your CV is very worth it, because that's the one thing you can do to counteract this scarring effect," Mr. Poloz told reporters was his advice to discouraged youth. "Get some real-life experience even though you're discouraged, even if it's for free. 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."

The next day Scott Brison, a Liberal member of parliament, asked in a House of Commons Finance Committee hearing in Ottawa if Mr. Poloz would acknowledge taking unpaid positions might contribute to income inequality because children from wealthier families are more likely to be able to take them.

'Grab Them'

"I acknowledge that there are issues like the ones you're raising," Mr. Poloz said. "It's not a monetary policy matter but I still think that when there are those opportunities, one should grab them because it will reduce the scarring effect."

His comments triggered front-page stories in major newspapers in Canada Wednesday with youth groups and labor unions calling the remarks insensitive.

"Governor Poloz' comments speak volumes about the bleak prospects for young workers," Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff said in a statement. "But unpaid internships and 'Will Work for Food' signs for young people is not a serious response to chronically high youth unemployment."

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Mr. Oliver, speaking to reporters in Ottawa Wednesday after a weekly Conservative Party meeting, said the idea of taking unpaid positions was different from when he starting seeking employment.

"There has been something that developed certainly since I was looking for my first job where some people will take free, or non-paying positions," Mr. Oliver said. "I believe that's what he may have been referring to," he said when asked about Poloz's remarks. "What we are obviously looking for are more paying jobs for youth."

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