Interns should be more than just coffe-gophers … shouldn’t they? flickr/happydog
“Last week Reuters reported a former intern at Harper’s Bazaar is suing the magazine’s publisher, Hearst Corporation, saying her internship violated US labour laws because it was unpaid. The intern, who worked 40-hour weeks between August and December last year, is seeking minimum-wage pay and overtime pay in damages.
“For US college students, unpaid internships are increasingly sought after, especially “glamour” internships in media, fashion or in Washington DC. These internships are usually secured by those who already have family connections they can call upon. If unpaid work reeks of exploitation, here it is exploitation mixed with a peculiar element of privilege.
“Last year, Ross Perlin offered a critical appraisal of this world of unpaid internships in his book Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy.
“Perlin argued Britain was not far behind the US in the growth of internships, and some commentators have suggested internships will become increasingly common in Australia.
“If we accept unpaid internships are growing in number, as anecdotal evidence suggests, what might be driving this?
“Perlin’s analysis points to several converging trends.
“One is the ‘human capital’ theory of work. Workers are increasingly seen as needing to ‘invest’ in themselves, to build up a resume that will render them more employable. Undertaking unpaid work is an ‘investment’ that will yield a return in the future.
“Associated with this is the idea that education should primarily be about employability. Accordingly, “book learning” in the classroom needs to be supplemented by real-life work experience if a student is to be genuinely “work ready”.
“Finally, there is a global trend by employers to use precarious or contingent workforces to drive down wage costs. Employers can save money by employing someone as a casual rather than an ongoing worker, or as a contractor rather than an employee. But what better than to take on a willing worker and pay them nothing at all?” Click here to read the entire article at The Conversation.