Monday, 25 January 2010

Blight of unpaid work for those who can afford it

Every parent wants to do the best they can for their children. But the practices of unpaid labour in the shape of internships and work experience current in London – and I suspect other major British cities – are unfair and unhealthy denying, as they do, the admission of fresh talent from outside a charmed circle. The corruption starts at the top.
Within the shadow of Big Ben hundreds of interns are doing thousands of hours of work for Members of Parliament of all political colours. According to union surveys most of these young people are unpaid and only a few get any support with their expenses.
No arm-twisting is involved here. The interns may have their own political ambitions or, at the very least, expect to make invaluable life-long contacts in Westminster. Either way a stint at the centre of political power provides a strong base from which to build a career.
Usually financial support by parents is required while their child works for free – another bill to add to that of private tutors, university fees, holidays, clothing and general allowances.
The cost of daily travel would be enough to deter any potential intern not in receipt of parental handouts even if somehow he or she were able to break through the chain of personal contacts that perpetuates the intern system.
The pattern is repeated throughout much of the commercial world. Nothing beefs up a job-hunting graduate’s cv than some appropriate unpaid work experience. Even if the young person gained the opportunity under their own steam, they wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of it had they bills to pay.
Companies exploit the demand. They see themselves doing the favour rather than those they exploit. But in the interests of social equality they must be forced to pay minimum wage to every 18-year-old and over regardless of how limited the period of employment.
No doubt in the short-term internships and work experience opportunities would shrink. The privileged – those inside the circle – will squeal. But once Parliament, companies, and wherever unpaid work is fostered come to terms with the new situation, matters should improve.
Even if they didn’t the playing field for our young people coming on to the jobs market would be more level.


  1. Good morning grapefruitcrazy This is "Jaffa" Yes i do agree with you that those fruity MP s are squeezing the juice out of the poor interns and spitting out the pips But these MP s are so blatent i can even smell the coffee Is this a new blog I do not think i have seen it before If so please allow me to toast its future success And don't think i am trying to butter you up Last time i did that I got into a jam But then I always enjoy breakfast though like everything else 2 can be company and 3 a crowd

  2. Thank you Jaffa for your comment - you're always welcome. GC

  3. I agree, unpaid internships are unfair - iv'e found the Media industry to be the worst for this. The BBC take on so many interns they always have a large number of unpaid workers all year round, and they pay only travel for month long placements. And even with an internship a job is still not secured - i speak from experience.

  4. I'm of a generation that grew up believing that the BBC held to standards of conduct above the mere commercial. It's disappointing to be reminded that the Corporation is ready to exploit young talent just as readily as any plc. GC

  5. Yes says Jaffa, your anonymous contributor's omments on the media/BBC and internships are naturally interesting to the uninitiated. It begs the question is this perhaps another reason to privatise the BBC? Less political correctness perhaps and more real equality of opportunity,to all comers?
    This of course leads us to the greater overall current issue of general youth unemployment. 1,000,000 and counting,qualified and non qualified alike. Something will need to be done quickly to avoid wiping out,in employment terms, a whole generation of youth workers. There have already been suggestions in some quarters that no one over 40 should be taken into into gov training schemes. In a modern consumer orientated, materialistic society there is no point in advocating "EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION", without there being the jobs to go to afterwards.


What do you think? GC