Are unpaid interns being exploited?

By Emma Brooks

A recent article about unpaid interns working for MPs and whether or not they are being exploited, got me thinking about what extents people will go to, to get a job. The article interviews several people who have worked for MPs without receiving any wages (or insignificant wages) for a long time, and how this has affected them. Some of them are lucky enough to have the support of their family whilst they work for free, but others have to take on a second job in order to be able to get by.

Although the law technically guarantees the minimum wage for interns, MPs are ignoring these rules and still asking for people to commit to working for them for periods of up to 12 months, for free. How is this even possible? But the reality is, people apply for these positions and are prepared to do the unpaid work, and so the problem persists.

So what would you do to get a job? I’m sure most of us have suffered the post graduation period, in which finding a job is extremely difficult and sometimes seems almost impossible. Some of us fall into temp jobs in order to be able to pay rent, others spend months without a job applying and getting rejected, most of us send applications to jobs we’re not remotely interested in, as we get more and more desperate, and so we end up in unpaid internships. Once we have paid for an amazing education, that is supposed to open all the doors for us, we learn that now we need experience. But how do we get it? By putting our services to peoples’ disposal for free. Technically, we are qualified, educated and hard-working. We are more than capable of doing the job, and often end up doing real hard work but get no pay for it all in the name of experience.

It actually shocks me, how people imagine that we can get by doing this. I fully understand why so many of us agree to these unpaid internships and why it is a necessity. I also understand why companies find it beneficial to employ interns. And yet at the same time, it’s scandalous! As I said before, people go through university and pay a small fortune for their diploma. Thousands of students graduate each year more in debt than ever, can’t find a job, and so continue to increase their debt.

How do people expect us to be able to live and start our lives in the world of work without a decent salary?

You are expected to be available a short notice, live in the vicinity of the job (more often than not, London, which is very expensive to live in) but you are supposed to provide for yourself by some miracle. This is precisely how people end up working two jobs, one for the experience and one for the income. Or how people end up stuck in jobs not related at all to their studies or what they actually aspire to, simply because they needed the money. In the end we end up exhausted, overworked, and frustrated.

But these are the tough rules of the jungle that we live in. Jobs are hard to come by, the competition is fierce, and everyone out there is just as qualified as you are for the job! That’s why people like the ones interviewed for the article I mentioned, and even us, end up accepting the status quo and continuing to work in our unpaid internships, even though we are unhappy about it. Hopefully one day it will all be worth it and we will be in the job we had been aiming for all along!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: