The latest entry point in the job market is the unpaid internship. Young people are told that an internship will help them get their feet in someone's door and on their way to a promising career. But Devon Black writes that the truth is far different than the pitch:
That rosy picture of unpaid internships is almost certainly wrong. The U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers released the results of a three-year-long survey on internships, where students were asked if they’d received offers of paying jobs during the critical pre-graduation period of February to April.
While just over 63 per cent of paid interns were offered a paying job during that time, only 37 per cent of unpaid interns got the same offer. Thirty-five per cent of students who didn’t work an internship also got an offer — so why are we pretending unpaid internships are a stepping stone to paying jobs?
Worse, the same survey found that unpaid interns who did get job offers were offered less money than the students who had worked no internship at all. Work done for free is seen as less valuable, it seems.
Internships are not new. What is new is the notion that young people should not be paid -- or given something in exchange for -- their labour. I went to the University of North Carolina to become a teacher. Part of the training required me to spend a year in a high school in Greensboro. I taught regular classes. And, for my labour, I was paid a stipend of $2,700 and paid in-state tuition -- which, at the time, was $37 a credit hour. It wasn't a princely sum. But, forty-five years ago, it was enough to live on.
My sister had the same arrangement when she trained as a nurse. The arrangement was pretty standard. She trained in a hospital, which gave her room, board and tuition in exchange for her labour.
We used to believe that all work is valuable and requires some form of compensation. Now employers and right wing governments -- on a mission to drive down labour costs -- have peddled the idea that people should be grateful to work for nothing.
Where I live, farmers have a word for that stuff. They use it to fertilize their fields.