As a speaker at the World Economic Forum describes unpaid internships as "labour theft", we ask, should all interns be paid?
Dan Martin has 10 years experience as a journalist writing about entrepreneurs and the issues that affect them.
I spent much of my career working within consumer magazine publishing. On several occasions, I missed out on opportunities because wealthy kids were willing to do the job for free. We're not talking about a short stint - one girl worked for a magazine for 6 months for nothing before naturally taking the only entry-level writing role that particular publication had had in years. It's a case of the wealthy monopolising the jobs in certain industries and those without the financial support of parents cannot compete.
The companies involved are just as bad - I know one company where the bulk of their work is done by unpaid interns - they are doing work for free that the company used to have to pay for. They restrict the length of the internships, but then bring in a new lot once the first group are finished. None of them are hired following the internship - why should the company pay for something when there are perfectly able to get free labour? In certain industries, it's absolutely rife - mainly industries where apprenticeships are non-existent. I personally don't believe apprenticeships are much better, with some apprentices being paid under £2.50 an hour. It's disgraceful.
Companies should not be able to exploit the desperation of young people, and wealthy young people should not be able to monopolise the roles in certain industries by working for free. Unpaid internships should be illegal - young people do sometimes learn a lot, but often they are given no training or employment opportunities but rather used as slave labour to complete the tasks no-one else wants.
The fact that these young people get to learn an industry is not an excuse - businesses must be forced to pay wages to all employees, whether interns or not. Young people, particularly graduates, should be valued by employers, not treated like sixteen year olds in work experience.
Two years ago I had a 4 month placement at the Ministry of Sound. While I was there I met 3 other interns over that period who were placed consecutively once after another to do one job, for one depatment. That was only one internship placement among 6-7 that they offer. All agreed, that the the welcome they recieved was akin to regimentation, and it doesn't surprise me, why would the permanent office staff try, when they positions the interns fill are assiduously recycled with fresh blood, anyone would get exhausted. Needless to say, none of the tasks really allowed any of the interns the opportunity to 'understand' the business, more to understand how to pack 600 promotion CDs into envelope. I thought I was so lucky to be in an internship and in the MoS office, its not all its cracked up to be lets just put it that way. I'd have saved alot of time (and money) phoning a member of staff up and asking over 2 minutes what they actually do in their role.