The Internship


Generation i

Temporary, unregulated and often unpaid, the internship has become the route to professional work

Sep 6th 2014 | From The Economist

Today, internship is becoming the first step to a white-collar career. What does this mean for employers, and for the next generation of employees?

Unpaid internships are becoming the norm.

These days, no one is going to pay if they don’t have to. Perhaps not coincidentally, the number of unpaid internships has grown just as hiring has become riskier, pricier and more complex. In recent years anti-discrimination and unfair-dismissal rules have been tightened, and minimum wages raised, in many rich countries. The growing cost of benefits such as pensions, health care and maternity leave makes employees more expensive. Interns have therefore become an appealing alternative.

Employers do not need to worry too much about how they give out internships, either. Internships can even be bought and laws are also being changed to illuminate the legal twilight in which interns operate. Some European countries are changing their laws to accommodate internships. In Italy a labour-market reform passed in 2012 mandated pay for interns of at least €300 per month, rising to €600 in some regions. Spain has introduced “training and apprenticeship contracts” of up to three years, under which workers are paid a lower wage while they learn the ropes. Some firms are now rethinking their unpaid schemes.

Last month Bell Mobility, a big Canadian mobile-phone firm, scrapped its unpaid internship programme, a year after a former intern had sued it (unsuccessfully) for back-pay. Some media companies have started paying their previously unpaid interns. Others are simply wording advertisements more carefully, rather than changing working conditions.

Change is slow. In the meantime internships, instead of being a foot in the door for youngsters of all backgrounds, can be a barrier to those who lack the connections to get them or the finances to forgo pay.

To be continued…


Michel Ouellette JMD is a talented keynote and motivational speaker, public affairs & communications Strategist.

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