Why interns don’t deserve pay

The ‘intern justice’ movement is preposterous – and damaging

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

In the modern political firmament, is there any creature more ridiculous than the agitating intern? Interns are rising up. These one-time coffee-makers have reimagined themselves as history-makers, fancying that they are latter-day Wilberforces striking a blow against the ‘internship slave trade’. They’re demanding back pay, retrospective remuneration for all that hard graft in air-conditioned offices with nothing but a usually paid-for Pret sandwich to sustain them.

Groups such as Intern Aware, Internocracy and Interns Anonymous are rebelling against the ‘tyranny’ of unpaid or expenses-only internships. It’s naked exploitation to be asked to work for nowt, they claim. It’s ‘modern-day  slavery’, says the website of Interns Anonymous, driving the point home with a picture of a Roman slave fanning his pampered mistress. That’s just what life is like for the 21st-century intern, apparently, though presumably without the being-sold-at-public-auction bit or the threat of being fed to lions.

The revolting interns have gone running to a well-known facilitator of radical change — Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs — in search of justice. And they’ve had some success. Earlier this year, HMRC forced nine firms to hand over £192,808 in back pay to 167 aggrieved interns. Recently Alexander McQueen became the latest company to be chastised for advertising unpaid internships. In America, a class-action lawsuit has been launched against Fox Entertainment Group by youngsters who suffered the horror of interning on trendy movies like Black Swan without pay. Imagine spending your summer hanging out with Natalie Portman and other Hollywood bigwigs. Oh, the humanity!

Of course it’s easy to mock modern youth. And that’s because what they’re doing and saying is preposterous. They present their campaign as a blast against The Man, but the intern uprising is motored more by a nauseating sense of entitlement and capacity for self-pity than by any of the workplace-improving ideals of yesteryear.

It speaks volumes about the parlous state of modern history teaching that these interns so liberally refer to themselves as ‘slaves’. Anyone who had been taught properly about the Roman era, or about black slavery in early America, or about the Holocaust, would know that there’s rather more to being a slave than being asked by a gruff boss to buy him a hazelnut latte.

But there’s a bigger problem with these sad-eyed agitators than self-pity. There’s the negative impact that making all internships paid will have on young people’s battered sense of voluntarism. The demand that internships become paid positions is an extension of modern youth’s corrosive belief that everything they do should be instantly rewarded. This is a generation which thinks its every endeavour deserves a pat on the back. Its less well-off members were even paid for attending school back when the Educational Maintenance Allowance existed. No wonder they think they should be paid for interning. Agitating interns doll up their campaign in lefty lingo, but there’s something ironically Thatcherite in their grasping for instant cash. Terrifyingly, we’ve nurtured youngsters who measure the value of their every action by how speedily they’re rewarded for it. Like performing seals.

The whole point of an internship is that it isn’t a job — it’s an opportunity. So it makes perfect sense that there’s no pay packet at the end of the week. When I was 20 I spent three months working for Living Marxism magazine in exchange for a daily cup of coffee, which I had to make myself. But they worked harder on me than I did for them: they taught me to write, gave me grammar lessons I never got at my comp, helped me think about the world in a fresh way. Interning is always harder work for the people overseeing the interns than it is for the interns themselves.

Easily the most grating argument made by agitating interns is that unpaid internships hit working-class youth the hardest. Apparently these empty-stomached sons of toil can’t afford to work for free, and therefore certain professions where interning is rife — such as journalism — will remain closed to them forever. What patronising nonsense. Is there anything worse than when middle-class campaigners use grubby-kneed poor folk as a Trojan horse for the pursuit of their own self-enriching escapades? Resilient working-class kids have for years topped up their internships with Saturday jobs or evening work, while kipping on a friend’s couch to cut outgoings. And in the process they demonstrated the very thing every intern should ideally possess: self-drive, the opposite of self-pity.

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  • StephanieJCW

    Only the ridiculous, who are completely enthrall to the British class system will support the idea of unpaid internships.

    They entrench privilege. I had a year’s internship (in Paris as part of my degree.) They wanted English students to come across and assist in their in-house teaching department, but didn’t want to offer them any money. They balked at my bosses suggestion that this meant they only wanted rich English students. They said this was not the case until he asked how they expected poorer students to support themselves in France while working full time and no assistance available from mom and dad?

    They paid us.

    And that’s the issue here. Unpaid internships are solely for the rich. Unless you are lucky enough to secure one in your home city. But a political/legal etc internship in London, which is full time is not possible without parental support if your parents live in another city. This is not ‘patronising nonsense’ it is a statement of fact. Pray tell how does one pay their rent/bills/travel costs and the odd bits of entertainment without a job Idiot O’Neill? From the magic money tree? The problem is you don’t actually know any working class people. You pretend you do, but you don’t know anybody on a really low income. So you cannot grasp that for some people family assistance is out of the question.

    I know Brendan O’Neill is the King of Contrariness for Contrary sake – but it just makes him come across like an idiot 98% of the time.

    • John Johnson

      So, you’re offered a job in France to learn the skinny of your intended profession and they’re not willing to pay you?
      Hmm. Does the University offer you pay for your studies?
      Perhaps you should work hard and save money to be able to afford that internship (or get a job in Paris, that’s an option, no?)

      The fact that you’re not even inventive or hard-working enough to think about it, shows exactly what the author of the article suggested.

      • StephanieJCW

        They did pay me. That’s it. A minimum wage but they did. they weren’t willing to pay because all the other stagiares (interns) were the children of wealthy French families living in Paris and so lived at home. It hadn’t occurred to them that the same situation was not true for Britons.

        I am not sure what you mean by being ‘inventive’. You can be as inventive as you like, you cannot live in another country without money to support yourself. Being a student at the time I am not sure where I would have been able to save enough to support myself for a year in Paris with only additional part-time evening work to pay all my living costs.

        I could work as hard as I like at my part-time bar job in the UK but how much do you expect to save given at the time I also had my UK living costs to attend to? Honestly the middle classes really don’t live in the real world.

        • John Johnson

          Why do you assume that everyone who worked harder than you is middle class.

          Let me explain to you how it works:

          I worked for 2 years, full-time, put most of the money away.
          Then, while at Uni. I got a part-time job, so it all worked out.

          See? Your life doesn’t have to just magically send you from high-school to internship in Paris, you can work and save money.

          The fact that you can’t even imagine it, is what’s troubling me.

          Maybe it’s because high-school was free, and Uni. was paid by parents.

          In Israel, for example, you serve in the IDF for 3 years, then do what I described above and trust me, there’s no shortage of successful, smart Israelis who find great jobs.

          Not all find great jobs, though. That’s what life is – you’re not automatically entitled to everything.

          • StephanieJCW

            “I worked for 2 years, full-time, put most of the money away”


            You are middle class. Only the middle classes show such an abysmal lack of understanding of those without access to family funds.

            So now you have waffled on about working full time to save. I am going to write this in big letters so you can read it – I WAS A FULL TIME STUDENT PRIOR TO GOING FOR A PLACEMENT YEAR IN PARIS.

            I couldn’t work full time as I studied full time. So I had a part-time bar job. As it took you two years workign full time (and you don’t state the salary you achieved) how do you expect me to have saved two years, working part-time in a bar and a coffee shop?

            Ridiculous person. Working and saving money immediately would have been equally problematic given the timing of when I would still be eligible for help to attend uni. Given that any job I would have secured with no qualifications would have been minimum wage and I would still have the same issue – working earning a pittance while paying rent / bills etc. And what are you talking about uni being paid by parents? What part of “my parents were in no position financially to assist me” are you struggling to understand?

            And anyway it’s by the by. More sensible people than you were involved and the internships were paid.

          • John Johnson

            You see? You can’t even go to a unit without being “eligible for help”.
            Believing that jobs are either minimum wage or unpaid is part of the problems. Lots of jobs give On the Job training and pay more than minimum.

            So if I worked hard, got no help from parents, didn’t go through unpaid internship – I’m “middle class”, as if that’s an insult.

            You, only went to uni. through “eligible for help” (whatever that is), went for a YEAR IN PARIS during your studies and you’re what?

          • Gary Paterson

            John, you clearly have no understanding of the British HE system, you keep making references to tuition fees (which we don’t have in Scotland) and you seem to think the person in question is on her high horse for spending a year in Paris as part of her degree (In Europe thats not a big deal, the ERASMUS programme sends students from all over the EU to study in other countries, it doesn’t mean they are jet-setters).

            I’m bloody skint but I’m at uni thanks to the Scottish Government and I will take part in ERASMUS next year thanks to the EU. You’ve got quite an outdated attitude about what kind of people go to university, when we are starting to see more socially deprived people in education don’t be surprised that they will ask why they are being locked out of certain routes to employment (ie- internships).

            Btw, Stephanie just wanted to say, keep doing what your doing… it all sounds fantastic and you will come out stronger for having to fight for what you’ve won, some people don’t understand but I do! Cheers!

          • John Johnson

            Yet another proof that you don’t understand that the things you absolutely take for granted aren’t actually FREE.

            Your replies are actually giving me valuable insight into why EU is in such a mess with imigration, etc. You just think that things magically align into place and money grows on trees.

          • Peter Bensley

            Why do you believe that anyone thinks they are getting anything for free?

            The only people expecting something for nothing here are the companies who employ unpaid labour. And of course, you are correct – that isn’t free, the cost is borne by the intern themselves, or by the government.

            But it seems beyond you to be angry at corporate welfare. I don’t understand that. Can you only hate something if it has a human face? Is it easier to be angry at your neighbour when you think he’s getting it a bit easier than you, than it is to be angry at a company of well-dressed gentlemen who politely help themselves to what isn’t theirs?

        • C.L.J. Murphy

          “you cannot live in another country without money to support yourself”

          Protip: You cannot call it “supporting YOURSELF” if you are demanding that others be forced to support you.

          To support yourself, you have to provide goods or services that others are WILLING to pay you for. Demanding that others subsidise your hobbies or career goals is just welfare under a prettier name.

          • William Henry Quick

            I’m sorry is asking to be paid for the work you’re doing demanding others subsidise you or you know just sort of asking for remuneration for the work you’ve done?

            But no you’re right I’m so sick of bloody interns trying to mooch paychecks from their employers in exchange for the work they’ve just done….

          • Guest

            You’re not “asking”, you’re “demanding”. I might think my blueberry scones are the best in the world, but they’re only “worth” what people are willing to pay for them. I might want to get $10 each for them, but if no-one is willing to pay that for them, should the State mandate that you buy one for $10 whether you think it’s worth it or not?

          • William Henry Quick

            Well for that to happen we’d have to have quite a large overhaul in our currency system from British Sterling to American Dollars which would be a lot of effort….

            But frivolous nitpicking aside I’m not demanding anything as I’m not an intern, just an interested bystander; and I didn’t make any demands in my post I meerly posited a logical question. Anyway, I can’t remember the last time I went into a supermarket or any retail establishment/outlet for that matter where I was able to haggle and negotiate what I paid for blueberry scones (or any commodity), they all seem to have a non-negotiable set price, and I can’t even sample the blueberry scones to ascertain how close to being ‘the best in the world’ they are and what price I’m willing to pay for them. Even ‘handmade by hippies’ in the Bearpitt market place in Bristol has fixed prices. I don’t think you’ve thought your post through very much, but then I suppose that’s only natural for someone who appears to be against state regulation of the wage system and has a penchant for making bakery related political corollaries . Still I do support you’re call for a more barter based economy, it would be much more fun. Anyway, blueberry scones aren’t really a great metaphor for wage labour, or the debate we’re having on this page so I think we should move away from you’re tedious argument.

            The drive for corporations and businesses of any kind to maximise profits always manifests itself in an attempt to minimise expenditure, especially wages; and with so many people unemployed and underemployed and desperate for work without a state regulated minimum wage we’d experience a drive to the bottom and a plummeting of general living standards for millions of people at the bottom of society. Already a huge chunk of the welfare is spent on working tax credit because companies do not pay well enough as it is. Unpaid internships just makes it easier for companies and prey on the people who want to better themselves. People’s desperation for the chance of employment is why unpaid internships are able to exist. The unpaid internship encourages companies to employ desperate students and young people to tie them over a few administrative jobs rather than employ someone for it. It isn’t uncommon for a company to have several interns come in and work or have it on a rolling basis.

          • Peter Bensley

            I want your muffins, but I’m not willing to pay for them, so I’m simply going to take them.

            What? You don’t like that? How dare you DEMAND that I subsidise your baking hobby! You simply aren’t entitled to be paid unless someone is WILLING to pay you!

            And if you don’t like it, you can forget about getting a job at my bakery. Or any bakery. We at the Guild of Complete Masterbakers can’t stand entitled whiners, and there are plenty of hardworking young people who will happily make us muffins for free.

          • Original_Cait

            Wow, are you really that retarded? Maybe that’s why no-one is willing to hire you.

            Stealing my muffins without my consent is theft, and is a crime.

            Just as stealing someone’s labor without their consent is slavery, and is a crime.

            If I realised that no-one was willing to pay me for my muffins, so I started handing them out for free, that would be quite another story.

            Just as when you realised that no-one was willing to pay you for your labour and started offering to work for free, that would be quite another story.

            Good grief. You guys are doing yourselves no favours here.

          • Peter Bensley

            Who said anything about taking things without consent?

            You’ll consent, alright. You’ll give me those muffins for free with a smile on your face, because otherwise you aren’t getting that baking job you want. (I said all of this in my original post, you just didn’t read it very carefully.)

            And then the kind of people who use ‘retarded’ as an insult will argue loudly on the internet that there’s nothing wrong with the situation, because they are obsessed with force and blind to coercion.

          • Peter Bensley

            Who said anything about taking things without consent?

            You’ll consent, alright. You’ll give me those muffins for free with a smile on your face, because otherwise you aren’t getting that baking job you want. (I said all of this in my original post, you just didn’t read it very carefully.)

            And then the kind of people who use ‘retarded’ as an insult will argue loudly on the internet that there’s nothing wrong with the situation, because they are obsessed with force and blind to coercion.

    • C.L.J. Murphy

      “Pray tell how does one pay their rent/bills/travel costs and the odd
      bits of entertainment without a job Idiot O’Neill? From the magic money

      Well where do you want the money you believe you are owed for this experience to come from? The magic money tree?

      • bigsammyb

        UK law stipulates a minimum wage, failure to pay that is a criminal offence. Let’s start enforcing the law.

  • StephanieJCW

    A Saturday job and kipping on a friend’s couch? Yes that is really an option for a year long internship. Friends are more than happy to have you stay that long and pay your food. And if you have no friends in that city why any stranger will be happy to help out. And the average Saturday/evening job is more than enough to pay rent/food/travel etc.

    The man is mad

    • John Johnson

      So, an evening job isn’t enough to have you lodging in your dream apartment?
      You’re meant to work hard and learn everything about your intended profession?
      No way!
      They’re offering to teach you for free, asking you to cover your rent&food?
      That sounds like…a University, only without the fee.

      • StephanieJCW

        Lodging in a dream apartment?! What?! When I finally moved to London I worked full time and was able to afford a house sharing with six other people. On a minimum wage part-time that would not be possible. I don’t have a rich family, they cannot assist.

        No a part-time evening job isn’t sufficient to pay rent and travel and food. Only a person with no idea of the country in which they live would think otherwise.

        Well unless I worked as an escort but no, I was willing to have sex for money.

        University accomodation/housing is heavily subsidised. You get loans to assist with tuition (and when I studied I didn’t have tuition fees so the loan covered my rent and part of my living costs.)

        The same is not true for most internships. The fact is unpaid internships are a benefit to the rich and the poor lose out. It is part of our poor rates of social mobility and entrenches the abysmal class system which is why you support it.

        • John Johnson

          So work hard and give your children the boost.
          Not everything must happen for you. Plenty of great jobs don’t require unpaid internships.

          • StephanieJCW

            And that’s my point which you finally grasp. It entrenches class privilege of those with parents who are able to “give them a boost”.

            And yes plenty of good job don’t require unpaid internships. But more and more want work experience, much of which is gained through unpaid internships.

            And when the media classes, politics and law pretty much closes itself off to those without family support then yes it is a big issue.

            But I guess Britain is happy having the second lowest rates of social mobility in the developed world.

            Ho hum.

          • John Johnson

            Well, YOU never get to become that parent, if you believe you’re entitled to everything from birth!

          • jason

            settle down ayn rand

          • Solletico Ranting

            she’s talking about a level playing field and equality of opportunity.

          • WE shouldn’t have voted for socialism so often then, should we.

        • Peter James Barden

          Red / Blue / Yellow / Purple / Green – it doesn’t
          matter.. Until MPs are compelled to pay their interns minimum wage (as they are
          somewhat hypocritically imposing on 200 businesses via HMRC currently) graduate
          participation in politics will continue to elude the vast majority of talent
          who do not have access to the bank of Mum & Dad to support such a pursuit.
          This attitudinal conspiracy, I believe, is the root cause of why we do not have
          a truly representative or attuned political system and instead tacitly
          cultivate a homogenous political class of toffs that really just administrates
          for large corporations and ignores the population it was voted in to serve. As
          South Park beautifully parodies – all we end up is with a choice between voting
          for a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich. Even John Major seems to agree – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24896266

      • Student1

        John Johnson, from reading what you have wrote you seem to me you are very out of touch with today’s student and internships. Just because you worked full time before you started your internship does not mean that everyone else has. I believe the majority of internships which students take on are part of their course, therefore they would have been in full time education 2 years prior to their internship. I myself have just gained an internship (Paid) in London and even though i have worked part time throughout my entire time in education since college i would not be able to afford accommodation (averaging around £600-£700 for a single room living with multiple strangers, unfortunately not my dream apartment as you may seem to believe), food and travel costs.

        Yes the companies do offer opportunities, very competitive opportunities, and yes interns do need watching over and need to be taught the way things are done within the company, but is that not like any other new employee of the company? If an intern is doing the same work as the employee who’s sitting at the desk next to them, why shouldn’t they get paid? I have many coursemates who are also interns and they have the same, if
        not more responsibility that other employees who have been there for a few years.

        I assume this article still thinks that interns are used to make the teas and coffees but that is a very out of date view. Maybe if the author had undergone proper research he would have found that this is completely untrue. The purpose of an internship is to gain experience and gain an understanding of the working world in the profession you seek to begin your career in. Like with many things in today’s world, you can’t do that without some sort of funding and not everyone’s family can afford to cover the cost.

        • John Johnson

          Being an intern is FAR from being an experience employee who’s viably contributing to the company.

          It’s an opportunity to learn what cannot be taught in a class. Same as any other education, you don’t (shouldn’t be) get paid for it.

          You should have worked before & during your studies.

          • Student1

            Well after 8 weeks during my intern i will be running multiple stores by myself. Surely that is contributing as much as an experienced employee?

            Should have worked before and during your studies? Then your arguement is with the colleges and sixth forms who pressure a level students into going to university straight after college

          • John Johnson

            Is it? Would you hire an 8 week intern to “run multiple stores”, or would you rather hire someone with years of experience?

          • Student1

            Depends why this person would have left their previous job – Was this person just not very good?
            As a company i think i would prefer someone with a clean slate who i could put into an internship and mould so that they would fit into the company perfectly. Also, the intern is a year. Its after 8 weeks going through an intensive training scheme

          • John Johnson

            A Professional would get paid more, because he can contribute to the company.
            There’s no inkling of a doubt that the intern earns far more from the internship, than the company that’s guiding him. They’re proving free training at the top levels of the profession, to people who’ve got 0 experience and wouldn’t get hired to any paid position at their company.
            So perhaps, having completed the internship, earning SOME experience, they can find a paying job at another company.
            With time, and more experience, they’ll be able to reach their goals, but there won’t be any instant gratification.

          • a_no_n

            And if you couldn’t get a job because the economy collapsed?

          • T.M.

            Turning the viable companies which have survived the economic downturn into de facto welfare agencies and forcing them to support the apparently unemployable is not going to help anyone. It will just send even more companies to the wall.

            Your boss is not your mum or dad. They’re not paying you because you’re cute, or because they love you. They’re paying you because you help them generate income. If your productivity is such that you generate less income for them than you want them to pay you, they cannot keep you on.

          • John Johnson

            Then you shouldn’t apply for a free internship.
            There are always jobs, you’re just not always willing to take them (at first).

            Don’t see many students sleeping in the streets while being interns at prestigious law firms, etc.

          • a_no_n

            lol there are always jobs…you haven’t had to look for a job post 2008 have you?

          • Archana

            It has nothing to do with contributing to the company’s profits. Many companies have internship programmes in place of milkround hiring. They recruit a bunch of interns, see how they perform under pressure for free, and then choose from that pool. This is true of not only technology companies such as IBM and Google but also of banks, the arts, research consulting groups and the fashion industry.
            Forcing interns to foot the bill and take on more debt is ridiculous.

            I am a business consultant – I was lucky at uni and got paid for my internships/summer roles (each one had a 5-6 stage interview process – and thousands of people applied). But my friends who studied law and banking didn’t because they technically weren’t contributing and it was mostly observational. I helped them out financially (they lived with me – 5 of us shared the tiny apartment I rented) but they were still severely in debt by the time university started in sept/oct.

            We knew many who hadn’t applied for unpaid internships etc because they worked hard during the summer to pay for food during the academic year. We all found great jobs after graduating – mostly because of the company names on our resumes – those other people found it harder and the jobs they got were not as good.

            You are right – many degrees dont require a lot of hours of study and people should get part time jobs. Believe me – anyone who needs to work during their time in university, does.

            Compensation for travel and food should be considered at the very least. But I don’t agree with litigation for back pay. Ultimately, it is a person’s choice to enter into unpaid work. The company didn’t promise pay. But it is in the HMRC’s interest to insist on pay because the extra taxes from both sides benefit the government 🙂

          • Solletico Ranting

            you’re one of the good ones i reckon.

          • John Johnson

            I see the point.

            Thing is, not everything has to happen for everyone.

            A “level playing field” is a figment of imagination. We’re all different and we’ll all get to different places and with different outcomes.

            To insist that it is a person’s “inherent right” to get an internship, whether they be rich or poor, is ridiculous. They do, but not really, as you see. Some are working hard to pay their bills. Some jump straight into Uni. at 18 years old, having worked maybe in their teens, but not beyond. The latter group fails to realize that everything costs money, expects “free” education, “paid internships”, etc.

            I don’t know how well educated they are, because they fail to understand how an internship is part of their education, and thus, they aren’t getting paid for it.

          • Student1

            Just want to put it out there. My housemate just finished an internship at IBM about 2 weeks ago – it was paid. And pretty well paid. He contributed to many projects which have/will contribute to IBM and their profits.

          • Mike

            So IBM reckons your housemate is worth a fair bit of money. And no-one thinks you’re worth anything. Sux 2 B U.

          • Student1

            Just going to put it out there, that is not true for IBM.

        • C.L.J. Murphy

          “The purpose of an internship is to gain experience and gain an understanding of the working world in the profession you seek to begin your career in.”

          So why should it be a company’s job to pay you for this? YOU want to “gain experience”, YOU want to “gain an understanding of the working world in the profession you seek to begin your career in”, but unless you are generating profit for the company who is giving you all these things, where is the money you want them to pay you supposed to come from?

          • Student1

            Well as an intern you would be generating profit for the company? Like i said, people who think that interns just sit around all day and make teas and coffees have out of date views. Interns do contribute.

          • OK. So exactly what to they contribute then?

          • Student1

            Clearly depends on the internship they’ve succeeded in gaining? Like i’ve said on a previous post. Once i’ve finished my 8 weeks training, i shall be in the same position as a manager – just paid less – win win for everyone. I gain experience while earning money to live off without borrowing any from the banks/family – company have a manager who is paid 1/4 of what a normal manager is paid

          • Londoner

            I’m an intern for a magazine and I’ve written almost two dozen articles for online (in over 6 weeks), I’ve stayed up many nights doing transcriptions, research or other work (I’d say more nights than not) plus weekends working on things, so I do contribute. There are of course different internships out there, some you don’t do anything bar get the name on your CV, but for others, like mine, the experience is invaluable. I am still in a debate as to whether I should be getting paid or should just be doing less late nights and weekends alongside the Monday – Friday full-time-in-the-office-thing but I definitely think you’re wrong to say that interns don’t contribute. The way I see it is this is my track to getting paid for what I love to do, I try not to think about it so much as getting paid, I think of it instead as I literally couldn’t pay for this experience and that’s what gets me through.

          • wack

            So I take it you dont want to be paid if you get a new job when you are learning new systems, routines and getting to know the people there. Companies do internships as they want something from it.
            If the company has less than 10 staff or the internship is less than say 2 weeks you need to pay your staff

          • ._.

            Because all our time is limited, and time has a certain value to each one of us. But I can see why free labor would be enticing to greedy companies. I think making it the norm is abusive on all us, and it has us heading in a bad direction.

      • Gary Paterson

        How you could equate an internship to a university course is beyond me… and as for your quirk about uni without a fee, we don’t all have to pay extortionate costs to learn.

        • John Johnson

          Someone does have to pay your fees. The fact that as a college/uni student you still fail to realize it, is beyond incredible.

          Are you an English Lit. major? Perhaps “politics”?

      • Septimus Kincaid

        An evening job isn’t enough to have you lodging in *any* apartment.

        The cheapest flat you can find in London is around £90 /week. Anything lower than that, and you’re incredibly lucky. If you’re working, say, five evenings a week, doing, say, five-hour shifts on minimum wage (which is £6.75), that’s £170 per week. And that’s working bloody hard if you’re also putting in full days at the office in an internship (9-5 in the office, then what, 7-midnight on shifts? Add travel time, too). Take out rent, and you’ve got £80 per week. Take out travel (which, in the capital, is expensive — you can easily be hitting £7 a day) and you’ve got £45.

        Want to try living on £45 a week to cover all food, bills (heating, water, electricity), any new clothing you might need for work, mobile phone? No, I didn’t think so.

        So what happens if something goes wrong? If your oven breaks? If your shoes get holes in? If you have to take time off your shift-work due to illness?

        Come on man, this isn’t about lazy youth, this actually doesn’t add up. It’s not possible to support yourself on an evening job and a full-time internship if you’re living in London. Full stop.

        • John Johnson

          So, on the one hand, you’re so extremely incapable, you’re working for a minimum wage.
          On the other hand, you insist living in the heart of London.
          On top of that, an internship at a prestigious law firm (let’s assume).

          Are you the moron from clause a. who’s working at McDonalds, or are you a top-notch future lawyer from clause b. ?

          You can’t be both.

          Oh, and quit the whining.

          • Septimus Kincaid

            Nope, this is anywhere in London, not the heart. If you lived outside London, your travel costs would be prohibitive. The rent estimate I used was actually very much a suburban one. Rent in the centre of London would be a great deal more.

            There are not many evening/weekend jobs available to people with little ‘experience’ (i.e. unpaid internships, etc). Those jobs tend to get taken up very quickly; most people are left with minimum-wage or near-minimum-wage. The kind of casual shift work that you’re going to have to do to fit in around an internship will usually be in restaurants, bars, events, etc. The majority of these jobs start people on minimum wage. The intelligence and capability of the person is entirely irrelevant; you may be the best waitress in the world, you’ll still not be paid more than £10/hr unless you work for more prestigious restaurants or go full-time. I think you may be labouring under the misapprehension that wages in these industries are a sliding scale according to how capable you are. This is simply false. Some people become managers etc — these are rarely part-time shift workers.

            In fact, if you’re going to jibe at intelligence, which is a pretty weak argumentative tack, I work as a minimum-wage waitress in the holidays, and in term time I’m a student at the most prestigious college in the world. I have no doubt that you’re rolling your eyes and saying things like ‘huh, book-smarts’. If you really think the big complex beautiful world is divisible into people with ‘book-smarts’ and people who exist in ‘the real world’, then I have no further business debating with you.

            Your idea of ‘internship’ is also rather limited; my mother works in museum education, and many of her colleagues had long unpaid internships in museums. Hardly high-flying city jobs, and yet still a sector which demands people take internships.

            I think this is a lot more complex than the dichotomies you’re reducing it to, and your refusal to acknowledge that indicates to me that you know very little about a) young people, and b) working and living in London. I realise you’re probably American, so there’s no reason you should know about London, but this is, after all, a British newspaper and that’s where the debate is properly situated in this instance.

          • John Johnson

            No, I’m saying SOMEONE else paid for that education at a “the most prestigious college in the world”. That same SOMEONE else should go on and pay for the period you MUST go through as an intern.

            You can’t have the cake and eat it too.

          • Septimus Kincaid

            That’s not how British education works, and as a commenter on an article which deals with recent British graduates, I would expect you to have educated yourself about it.

            Number one, my parents’ income is irrelevant as all university fees are the same — I am at Cambridge, which charges the same fees as any other university in the country (or it certainly does in my year; there have been changes since). Since our terms are short, our rent is actually lower than most other students’, so unlike the US system, prestigious =/= expensive.

            Number two, my parents’ income is irrelevant as British higher education works on a student loan basis — students have to pay back their loans if and when they reach a certain level of income. Parental assistance is totally at the discretion of parents, and, rest assured, many many students go through university without any support at all.

            This means students graduate from university with large debts. This means students from families who can’t support them CANNOT afford to do unpaid internships. If you’re suggesting there should be a government loan scheme for interns, I can concede that we’re at least discussing this meaningfully. But the expectation of parental support is not one that many people can rely on, and it is the reason why internships get snapped up by people from high-income families, which just serves to block more opportunities for working-class people.

            I must admit that I don’t have personal stakes in this — I want to become an academic, and I am currently doing a (funded) research project, which I suppose is roughly the equivalent of an internship. But I’ve seen many of my friends have problems with this system, and while I have nothing against the idea of short periods of unpaid work experience, I just think there should be an acknowledgement on the part of businesses that a lot of people simply can’t afford to work unpaid for long periods of time.

          • John Johnson

            A. The “large debts” part doesn’t match the “same fees as any other university in the country”.
            B. Not being able to go to unpaid internships is alright. There are a lot of other things in life you can’t afford. I’m not even talking about a new Jaguar or a 4-bedroom villa in Spain. Just the regular old things. Notice how when you’re buying at the supermarket, some brands cost more, some less? Yeah, that’s how life works. It’s there on the shelf, you just can’t afford it.
            C. I’m suggesting you learn how government gets its money. No, not the proverbial money tree. It’s taxes. When you’re getting something for nothing, someone else is paying for you. If you believe that government should be responsible for student loans, why not for all loans? Why not nationalize the banks? Read about it.

            D. If working class people can afford to get into Cambridge for the same fee as a community college, I wonder why they don’t do it, then get jobs which don’t require unpaid internships. Sure, at first it’s low-level, but if they’re good, they’ll rise up. If not, down they go. Life.

            You shouldn’t WORK unpaid, but if it’s a true internship, it’s part of the study. For example, a doctor might have to go through a YEAR or TWO at an actual hospital, as part of his studies at the University.

          • Septimus Kincaid

            A. No, it does. That’s the point of having nationally-set fee caps. All students, from whatever university, will graduate with roughly the same debt, unless their parents have paid their fees/maintenance.

            B. Sure. But if you’re making that argument, you’re also saying that working-class kids don’t deserve to have the same education and employment opportunities as kids from rich families, which I’m afraid I disagree with. I think this might actually be the root of our disagreement — that your attitude is one of ‘this is just the way things are’, whereas I take the stance that these things can and should change. Which is fine, I mean, whatever. I’m happy to leave that there because I don’t see it as being a profitable argument for either of us, but I wanted to make sure you actually knew how the university system works here before you made that argument.

            C. Yes, the system works on the basis that those receiving loans and a university education will then repay those loans. Add to that the fact that a degree means you are more likely to get a higher-paying job, therefore you spend the rest of your working life paying higher taxes which goes on to fund the same system that you went through. I’m not remotely arguing that it’s the perfect system, but it does make some sort of economic sense. In fact it used to be free to attend university in the UK, and students used to get maintenance grants, because it was thought that they would, throughout the course of their life, make sufficient economic repayment to the state that it was worth the state’s while to make that investment. Now of course that is not the case, but it still fundamentally works on the same basis that education = better economic mobility = more taxes.

            D. The factor holding back working-class people from education as a whole may be partially economic, but the things that are stopping more working-class people applying to Cambridge in particular are poor teaching, misapprehensions about who gets into Cambridge (and in my experience, this is often teachers/parents telling perfectly able kids not to apply or that they wouldn’t fit in), a lack of confidence, and poor access to information about A-level or degree choices. These are all factors which Cambridge itself tries to work on (and could definitely do more for), but as I said before, since our terms are short, it actually costs less to go to Cambridge than it does to most other universities in the country.

            And to your final point — yes, I totally agree. If there’s scope for having a year in industry as part of your course, then absolutely you shouldn’t be paid for it. But we’re talking about graduates taking internships here. Maybe it requires a restructuring of university degrees to include work experience *before* graduation — which I think would be of real benefit to a lot of people, and would mean they would be still within the system of student loans and supported through it, so able to take up those opportunities.

            I think we’ve kind of got most of the way there on this one, and I’m kind of unwilling to argue this further. My final line on it is this: I really don’t disagree with your basic point that an internship is about gaining valuable experience, but I think that has got to be set up in some way that people of all backgrounds are able to access internships without having to rely on parental support, otherwise it’s just another way of making the rich richer and screwing over the poor.

          • John Johnson

            I’m just saying – not everyone can go to Cambridge?
            Why not? Because there’s not enough room/teachers to accommodate everyone, even if they lowered the bard.

            The system cannot be egalitarian, because we’re NOT equal. Some smarter, some dumber. Some richer, some poorer.

            Just let go and try to “fix” the things you can, recognizing that time/money IS a finite resource and you’re always pulling on the same blanket, exposing the legs or the head as you do, never covering both.

          • Amy

            I would just like to point out a significant loophole in the current student finance funding entitlements.

            The National Minimum Wage law currently states:

            Students required to do an internship for less than 1 year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

            Whilst I do agree with this particular wage entitlement, as in this particular situation a student is receiving academic credit for the work experience they have undertaken and more often than not employers do spend considerable time out of their own working hours to give on-the-job training to these students.

            So whilst taking a year-in-industry is actively encouraged by university tutors and fully integrated into degree courses, also known as ‘sandwich’ courses, then the situation would surely be that the Student Finance organisation offers equal amounts of funding for every academic year undertaken at university as part of a degree course, whether a year is spent in academic study or working in industry, as equal academic recognition is awarded in both situations.

            However, the situation is as stands (I will use my particular financial situation as an example)

            As a current BA Fashion Design student, I have the option of taking a year-in-industry after Year 2 (changing my 3 year course into a 4 year ‘sandwich’ course), or continuing study into Year 3.

            For September 2013 if I was to continue to Year 3 I would receive:
            £3043 – Maintanence Loan and £3080 – Maintanence Grant. Which I receive a roughly equal amount for each year of academic study.

            If I chose to undertake a year-in-industry, for the same academic year I would receive:
            £2324 – Maintance Loan (£3263 if I chose to live in London) and £0 – Maintanence Grant.

            So roughly I would be entitled to only a third of the funding I would normally receive, whilst I would still be awarded with identical academic credit for that year whether I studied or worked. My rent doesn’t suddenly diminish two-thirds for that year, nor does my utility bills or the food that I eat. Whilst luckily my parents would be willing to support me for that year, the same cannot be said for all students.

            Work experience is of course invaluable in gaining experience that cannot be taught within a classroom, and more often than not a key stepping stone into gaining a career in many industries today. If an academically recognised year-in-industry is being actively encouraged by universities, then there should be the financial backing available to support this. This would mean the businesses in our country would have access to the most talented candidates, not just the richest.

            Another issue to raise is that an Erasmus grant is available to students who chose to work abroad within an EU country ontop of a student loan figure of £2780, but strangely enough no grants available for those that which to gain experience within a UK business. Effictively the government aren’t supporting the industries of this country and the future economy, by creating another hurdle between young people gaining a career within UK businesses.

            This loophole is yet another hurdle between bridging the gap between the rich and poor in our society, and one which could be easily solved.

          • John Johnson

            I safely assume that young people should learn the value of working.

            It’s not an “either minimum wage or a high-paying corporate gig” world.

            Your painting it as such shows you have a very shallow perception of the world.

            If your mother/father could afford to have you in the “most prestigious college in the world”, I guess they did alright for themselves, internship and all.

      • bigsammyb

        It is illegal..

    • Noa

      How many unfunded interns does the Spectator have? Given the relentless flow of pro- slavery articles from its (paid) scrivenors I imagine that there must be garretfuls of the little darlings lodged amongst the eves in Old Queen Street. From they are unleashed at night to roam the streets, to beg shwarmahs from passers-by on Edgeware Road or pan handle passers by in Regents Park?
      Or do they repair for their evening repast to the Barclay Brothers’ soup kitchens in their Claridge’s, Connaught and Berkeley hotels, there to share exciting tales of sandwiches served that day, of latest gossip in Pret a Manger, before returning to raid the bins at M&S for breakfast and the start of the new day. When the dreams of editorship, or of being the next mayor of London, meet the reality of operating the new Disquis software or cold-calling provincial subscribers about renewal.

  • John Johnson

    A. “kipping”? Hilarious word! In the US it’s “couch-surfing”.
    B. There are plenty of paid jobs. The reason they want to be politicians/journalists/lawyers/accountants or any other job that has an internship, is because they want to earn that fame/top $$$ in the end. If they’re not even willing to “suffer” the internship, how will they fare as your next journalist?
    C. Would you want your next MP to be a spoiled kid who couldn’t get through an internship? Or would you want it to be that “kipping” kid?

    I vote kipping!

    • Student1

      A. Why does that matter?
      B. Very stereotypical of you. Maybe the people who want to do those jobs are the people are good in those particular areas? Very narrow minded.
      c. Why are they spoiled kids? Because they are unfortunate to not be able to afford to work as an intern for a year unless they sleep on someones sofa? Hardly spoilt by getting paid which will just cover your overheads. Its not as if all interns are getting paid 25k+.

      • John Johnson

        A. It matters.
        B. How good are they? They won’t even bare through the internship, let alone get a job in the industry, because they have to work hard.
        C. Because people who don’t have jack to eat, go out and work to feed themselves. Kids who want to be lawyers, but want to get paid for being interns as well aren’t poor. They’re “entitled”, future rich, but not willing to even bare the brunt of the hard initial part.
        How good of a lawyer are they going to be?

        • Student1

          I just don’t understand how you think someone who gets an unpaid internship in london would survive?! Full time unpaid work then a part time job which wouldn’t generate enough money to live in london. Surely its just separating the rich and the poor. The poor can’t afford to live in london off a part time job (With all the overheads incurred) while the rich can afford to live in london while not having a part time job. Surely that means the rich get rich as they become an account/lawyer etc while the poor cannot gain access to these sorts of jobs. Many internships are part of a degree which you would have studied 2 years prior in full time education – even a part time job then which i have still wouldnt cover a year working in london

      • C.L.J. Murphy

        If they’re “very good in those particular areas”, then they should be able to find someone willing to pay them for this skills. If no-one is willing to pay them for these skills, then maybe they aren’t as talented as they believe.

        • EE Smith

          I think my blueberry scones are lovely, but if I’d gone several years and couldn’t find a single person who was willing to pay me actual cash for one of them, I do think I’d have to reassess whether blueberry scone baker was really the best career trajectory for me.

    • Guest

      A. This is Britain, and we couldn’t care less what you call it in the US. No, not ‘could care less’, couldn’t care less.

      • Not Kenwestmoreland

        Why so sensitive, kenwestmoreland?

        • kenwestmoreland

          We don’t like being lectured about vocabulary by Americans or Israelis.

      • John Johnson

        And that’s why Britain is such a force in global politics and economy. Oh wait…

  • sickofit

    While there are aspects of this article that I agree with it: you are largely ignoring that most internships expect you to be available at least full-time or part-time hours. Many students take up internships during the school year while they also take classes. To take on an internship in the summer is very expensive if you don’t live in a local proximity to the school, because then you have to pay for housing.
    Middle class & lower class students often have to work to cover tuition, housing, food, and other fees unless their parents are nice enough and rich enough to take care of all the odds and ends so they don’t have to be concerned.
    In this modern time, it is very hard for a student to balance school, a job, and an internship. However, you need a job: gives you experience (and pays) and you should try for an internship (shows your dedicated and gives you skill in your desired area). If you have to give up your job for a much valued internship then where are your funds coming from?
    I’m at a prestigious private university (entirely on scholarship) & my mom tries to support me as best she can, but I hate the idea of taking money from her that she really needs for herself and my siblings. I don’t want to ask her for money if it can be avoided. She’d happily help me if I need it and she has, but not everybody wants to live off of their parents. Last year, I, at one point, lived on literally, ten bucks in my pocket, $00.18 in my bank account & ramen, because I was hit with unexpected book fees. This lasted for a little more than two weeks. I was terrified. The true college student struggle. I couldn’t get a job due to A: not getting hired anywhere & B: a strict schedule & C: heavy course load. Also, there was no opportunity for an internship paid/unpaid.
    This semester, I’m taking on at least two jobs if I’m lucky enough to get hired for a work-study & then a babysitting job. I will be in classes on top of this and if I could manage an unpaid internship I would happily take it. I would happily take a paid one as well, but those are fiercely competitive and often act as another job. You do hard work with no pay. It makes you a better worker, sure, but it’s not always an option when you are a dirt poor college student struggling.
    So, while I do contend with some of the points you raise, you must also realize that the middle-class nowadays struggles to make ends meet.

  • IQdaRadical Thinker

    Why does Brendan O’Neill bother speaking when it’s so obvious that he has nothing worth saying?

    Try thinking before you speak, fool.

  • Shorne

    Doesn’t this penny pinching git realise people have to eat?
    Also see 1 Timothy 5:18

  • Angela Brady PRIBA


    I believe that it is the responsibility of our entire profession to nurture protect and give confidence to our students and graduates. We must eradicate forever unpaid “internships” for the longevity of our profession.
    The word “Intern” has crept in, in recent years – it has no place in architecture – we ask that all practitioners’ abandon it. The current exploitative situation undermines our profession where an attitude prevails that working for free is acceptable – It is not. This insidious process is killing the prospect of a more diverse profession as unpaid internships are impossible opportunities for all but the wealthy.

    If architects cannot value students and graduates – how can they ever expect a fee paying client to value our skills with adequate financial remuneration!

    The Government has clarified its guidance to say that unpaid internships are often illegal, because real ‘work’ is been done.

    Some employers are using the term ‘internship’ as a way of circumventing National Minimum Wage Regulations (1998) with graduates working unpaid for long periods. Any ‘intern’ that satisfies the conditions of ‘worker status’ (HMRC) but has not been paid the national minimum wage is entitled to pursue a claim at an employment tribunal. It is against the law not to pay the minimum wage https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns

    Our RIBA Code of Conduct states all chartered practices must comply with RIBA employment policy and that students requiring completion of PEDR’s must be paid at least the minimum wage. Any architectural practice that abuses this will have their accreditation as a Chartered Practice revoked. I would like to extend this to all architects practices so that as a profession we will be the first to stamp out “intern” exploitation

    This reflects the bigger issue that architects are not robust in getting appropriate fees and some offices gives an unfair advantage in job resourcing. We need to run our businesses better, we are not a charity, we must value what we do.
    We need a mindset change to value and support our young students and graduates who bring a range of skills combined with a desire to learn in practice and who will now have rising student debts like never before. We all need to sign up to a professional, fair and robust way of working

    I have gathered many views and there is a strong call for further action to protect the future of our profession;-

    Ben Lyons of Intern Aware says “Unpaid internships aren’t just unfair on the young people unable to work for free, they are also bad for business. British architecture firms need to recruit the most talented, determined graduates to compete in a crowded global market. By asking young people to work unpaid, not only are companies recruiting from a narrow, and less diverse, pool, but they may be in breach of employment law and therefore be liable for fines and even criminal records”

    “The ASN -The Architecture Students Network is strongly against the word “intern” All students whether or not they are working towards completing their PEDR Sheets should be paid for any professional work undertaken, be that supporting a competition team or producing working drawings”

    Ruth Reed PPRIBA says “The most significant issue is that student “interns” are not covered by national minimum wage legislation so they are very vulnerable. This is why we have added the RIBA chartered practice obligation to protect architecture students”

    Helen Misselbrook says “Join Our Studio was created by Architects for Architects to make finding talent to employ easy. Employers can find talent for free with no advertising costs, no agency fees, and no commission. We insist on NO UNPAID INTERNSHIPS! The money we save Employers is redirected straight to our graduates.”
    “Expecting our graduates to work for free to gain PEDR experience required for their studies is immoral and will lead to further elitism in our profession with only those with the financial means able to take unpaid internship opportunities”

    In 2011 ZAP campaigned on behalf of architecture students with an exhibition at RIBA highlighting the governmental trebling of tuition fees and the remuneration expected by architec­ture students once qualified The cost of an architectural education at £88,000.
    ‘ZAP Architecture’ were looking to hire year out students and offer Summer placements. The amount of CV’s they received from students voluntarily offering to work for free is a deeply worrying phenomenon and indicative of the current climate. In many ways, students are cheapening themselves with the philosophy that they need to offer benevolent services to profit-mak­ing firms in order to gain experience. Many firms relish this student philosophy in order to gain free labour”. It is ZAP’s opin­ion that every undergraduate course should extinguish this concept from every single student before they seek employment and place­ments.
    Students need to realise the knock-on effect this has on their own worth, as well as the worth of their ‘future-architect-selves. The RIBA badge should only be associated with practices that nurture young talent and not exploit it. By students calling themselves ‘interns’ they are leaving the floodgates wide open for manipulative and unethical practices to benefit. These practices have no place in the RIBA organization, despite how the student’s title is defined as intern or assistant”


    John Assael “I fundamentally object to unpaid architectural internships – they are immoral. We’ve never had them and never will. We have a policy at Assael Architecture that all employment is paid and our minimum salary is £20,000 P/A
    It’s time for the profession to sort this out themselves before the RIBA and ARB have to publicly expose and rebuke some examples of this illegal and unprofessional practice, which in itself could damage our reputation”

    Beatrice Fraenkel ARB “It is against the ARB Code of Conduct to act in this unacceptable way of exploiting students, as this behaviour is likely to bring the profession into disrepute. “Everyone in work deserves a fair wage and the architects profession must recognise the economic value that students and graduates bring”

    Oliver Richards VP of RIBA educations: “Just remember that the next generation of architects is more important than this one. All architects have someone in their history who has made that difference to their own careers – so make sure that you find that individual. Architecture is increasingly about collaboration and persuasion. Arrogance does not make friends but confidence is essential”

    ————-END———————————————————-A shorter version appeared in RIBA July Journal Twitter@RIBAJ Twitter@AngelaBradyRIBA

  • Natasha Clark

    On one hand, I see what you are saying about referring to interns as slaves. In most cases, that is utterly ridiculous, and the phrase should not be uttered as it is not comparable.


    The people supervising the interns work harder than the interns? Really?! Most people are there to get on with their jobs, they are paid for it. The people ‘looking after’ them are kind enough to help them, but they are not taking on another job for it.

    Self-drive? I’ve never been paid for a journalism job (which is what I want to do) ever, and I’ve done over 20 weeks work experience including The Times, the Press Association and Total Politics. I coach-surfed and worked 7 days a week to pay for it and I dropped with exhaustion after two months. That’s not counting the 3 years I worked for my students’ newspaper, radio and TV for free, wrote freelance for free, edited Wannabe Hacks for free. That was all time I could have been working, and I chose to enhance my career instead. Was that wrong?

    Have you ever worked for free? Do you know how degrading that feels to be doing nothing, or to be doing menial tasks because you’re there for free? Or doing a full-time job like someone else would, and not getting paid a thing for it? Or not getting any work experience in the first place, because so many others are competing with you, and no one responds to your emails? Or how many people find you annoying when you’re in the office asking for work, after delivering everything else you were asked to do? It all sucks.

    I really don’t think you know anything about interning, if that is your ONLY placement, and it was probably a good few years ago now, am I right?

    Please don’t write about things you really don’t understand. Cheers.

    • C.L.J. Murphy

      “I’ve never been paid for a journalism job (which is what I want to do)
      ever, and I’ve done over 20 weeks work experience including The Times,
      the Press Association and Total Politics. I coach-surfed and worked 7
      days a week to pay for it and I dropped with exhaustion after two
      months. That’s not counting the 3 years I worked for my students’
      newspaper, radio and TV for free, wrote freelance for free, edited
      Wannabe Hacks for free.”

      If you’ve done all that, and you still can’t find anyone who’s willing to pay you, maybe you’re just not very good at it. Just because you “want to do” journalism doesn’t mean (1) you’re necessarily talented at it, or that (2) someone must be obliged to reach into their own pocket and pay you for it if they don’t think you’re worth it.

      I would have liked to have been an NBA basketballer, but if I had cleaned the Knicks’ locker room for free for five years that wouldn’t have meant they were obliged to put me on their starting line-up.

      • Natasha Clark

        I get what you’re saying, but without sounding arrogant, I’m alright at what I do. You don’t get that experience without being alright, and I’m on an MA programme, so I think I’m doing okay.

        The reason I haven’t been paid for anything I’ve done is a) there aren’t paid internships that I’ve applied to. b) I’ve been studying full time, and am continuing that next year, so I’m not looking for it right now.

        • C.L.J. Murphy

          Well I do wish you luck. Not everybody gets a paid job doing what they love to do from the get-go; some people never do. I’m finally a civilian doctor, which is what I always wanted to be, but only after a detour of 10 years in the armed forces because that was the only way I could support myself and get the skills, experience and education I needed. If it’s really what you want, hang in there and hopefully you’ll get it eventually. But realise that very few people just “fall into” their dream job, and be patient.

          • Natasha Clark

            Then you are a prime example of someone who didn’t give up on their dreams, didn’t complain, and did whatever they could to get into the career they wanted.

            I will study more, do more unpaid work, more placements, become better at writing and reporting, and I will get there 🙂

            I could be working at the coffee shop for a few years yet, but if I’m unemployed a year from now, I will happily buy you a drink!

  • Cymrugel

    You Know Mr O’Neill, I know that you specialise in always taking the opposite view from that expected, given your stated political position, but saying its OK to employ someone full time for nothing for a year is a bit of stretch even for you.
    Whatever way you look at it, making people work for free for an extended length of time is exploitation and something that only the reasonably affluent could contemplate.

    • C.L.J. Murphy

      How are they “MAKING people work for free for an extended length of time”? Do they kidnap these hapless souls off the street and hold them at gunpoint?

      • They are dishonestly suggesting it will lead to paid employment rather than bankruptcy and/or a feeling that you are of no worth (as you apparently aren’t to your ’employer’). It is a con, as often as not. It plays on the optimism and hopes of the young, it feeds on that, and eats away at that and destroys it.

  • rtj1211

    Brendan O’Neill didn’t deserve a free University education. I’ll bet the national debt he got it.

    Brendan O’Neill shouldn’t have been paid a penny for his first 12 months work, particularly given the need to pay rent, to eat, to clothe oneself and to retain sufficient sanity by socialising in a manner more sophisticated than ‘let’s have sex – it’s the only thing that doesn’t cost anything’. No doubt it would have been unprotected, because pills and condoms cost money.

    This absolutely insane moron needs to be sectioned for proposing mass starvation and murder of our young people.

    I’d prefer him to be hung, have his dead body put through a food mincer and then have his mince fed to pigs to turn into pig shit.

    La plus ca change, la plus c’est la meme chose………

  • The hiring of unpaid interns is monstrously unfair and damaging. If you aren’t paying your workers you are not really going to focus on how good a job they are doing, and if you aren’t paid you aren’t going to value what you do and it is soul destroying. The sooner employers are obliged to hire people at least on the minimum wage the better. even apprentices get paid!!!

    • C.L.J. Murphy

      So if a young person wanting experience isn’t worth £7 an hour to me, instead of taking them on as an intern so that they can learn, I just won’t take them on at all. That’s going to help young people how?

      Do you not understand that everyone I pay has to be involved in helping /generate/ income for my company? I am not a charity, I am not a welfare agency, I do not have a magic money tree.

      • Your business must be doing very badly indeed. I would look for experience elsewhere

      • Student1

        What does the intern do exactly if they arent involved helping/generate/income for your company? Sit around all day and watch employees do their jobs? Sounds like a poor internship.

      • Lindsey C

        Advertise for volunteers with work experience in mind?

  • William Henry Quick

    To me this article seems like a great argument for why Brendan O’Neill doesn’t deserve oxygen….. (Before anyone starts I jest of course, but what a terrible load of tripe and utter drivel, who decided this was fit for print? For shame everyone involved, for shame!)

  • AlexMacDonald7

    Sort of agree. I’d actually say that interns are not paid because we have a minimum wage – they usually won’t justify being paid £6 odd quid an hour if their output is nout. If there wasn’t a minimum wage though, it might be different. I’m thankfully through the interning stage now, – he says – but if I ever needed to go back I wouldn’t hesistate to work for a prestigious company for £2/3 an hour – it’s better than nothing! Scrap the minimum wage if you want youngsters to get on the job market in bulk.

    • C.L.J. Murphy

      Having a high minimum wage is like putting the first rung on a ladder 3 feet off the ground. I agree, a lower minimum wage would allow more young and inexperienced people to get a foothold on the ladder towards eventually reaching their career goals. But as it stands, if people aren’t worth £6 or £7 an hour to an employer, they can’t be paid anything. That pretty much knocks all those who may be worth SOMETHING, but less than £6 or £7 an hour when they’re just starting off, out of contention.

  • Can Terzioğlu

    Let’s see. I get to work and burn brain,suffer nights of agony and examinations for years, only to get NOTHING and then HOPE to be employed?

    The neoliberal era is worse than Roman times. At least they fed their slaves.

  • Michael Hollick

    Basically, what this comes down to is “It wasn’t like that in my day.” Neoliberal claptrap. Please Mr Nelson, desist from publishing this tripe. See also the ridiculous article on foodbanks a couple of weeks ago. This sort of clickbait belongs in the Daily Mail. “Champagne for the brain?” This is Blue Nun, at best.

    • JJ Charlesworth

      So what’s your point?

  • a_no_n

    Because god forbid these massive corporations should have to part with any money.

  • JJ Charlesworth

    It’s easy to pretend that the bad guy in the internship debate is always the ‘big corporation’, which is ‘exploiting’ the ‘unpaid work’ of interns. But there are plenty of non-profits, charities, and small businesses who employ interns, and who would be hit badly by any decision to define internship as ‘unpaid work’. In case you hadn’t noticed, interning is a deal – I do something for free for you, you give me insight and experience of the world of work I want to get into. That’s the ‘pay’. The idea that poor interns are somehow incapable of sorting themselves out to get into these opportunities is just patronising.

  • Joie Parris-Lewis

    Brendan O’Neill the problem with internships at the moment is that a) interns are not getting the kind of package that you got back in the day. The companies don’t pay any attention to furthering their education and development. Indeed, interns are being used purely as skivvies without any opportunity for development at all. And b) internships are no longer a mere 3 months. Interns are now being used without any benefits to them for a lot longer than that.

    As a business person I must say that I would love to have an intern working with me, but I really feel that it would be taking unfair advantage of their time and skills.

  • Erik Jönsson

    As somebody who worked a full-time restaurant job while also interning 30 hours a week and lived in a $550/mo closet of a bedroom (in New York, mind you—that kind of rent is unheard of), I never believed I was entitled to anything. I am, however, against unpaid internships in the form they most often occur today. Unpaid internships *should* be used as simply an educational experience that one does during breaks from university. Yet many of these “learning experiences” cross the line into unpaid labor, which is not okay. I’ve heard of countless unpaid internships that are much more akin to assistant-level jobs, which *should* be the way people are expected to gain the experience necessary to “break into” an industry. If you have somebody working for you that is making improvements to your company that you benefit from, they should be paid—period. Unpaid internships have eroded the former “work your way up” path from assistant to supervisor that no longer seems to exist.

  • I remember a director of the advertising agency I got a job with after university, We graduate trainees – there were three of us, it was a bumper year for money just before – sometimes complained that we were not “given real responsibilities on the accounts to which we’d been attached”. The dear old man said: “my dear boy, we have long experience of young fellows like you, and him and him, being _/allowed to make vast and costly strategic mistakes with boundless confidence/_ . Do you think we’d carry on letting you do that and also still be here?”

    • And WE were actual employees – the notion of “interns” had yet to appear!

  • John

    I work as a Careers Adviser in a UK university. We regularly get asked to post job adverts for ‘internships’ which require real skills, involve real work, and real commitment (six months to a year, full time). But they don’t offer any pay. The Media, Fashion and Arts sectors are probably the worst culprits. We don’t advertise these ‘opportunities’ to students because we believe that if you’re doing a real job, contributing work of real value to the company, you should be paid. Is there anyone who’d seriously disagree with that?

    • Trina K.

      So you’d rather have your clients sit at home on the dole than be out there gaining experience?

      • John

        No, of course not, nor is that what I said. There are two additional factors in play with the positions I describe above:

        1) They contravene National Minimum Wage legislation, which says if you meet the definition of being a ‘worker’ (doing real work of real value to the company, not just shadowing etc) then you must be paid at least NMW. By advertising them we could get the University in trouble.

        2) Even if we could be absolutely sure we wouldn’t get in trouble (and given how disinterested HMRC have been on this matter, that’s a fairly safe bet), there is still the issue that by advertising them we could legitimise them – i.e. give our students the impression that they are in fact legal.

        Having said all that, I still feel that the NMW law has it right on this one – if you’re doing real work then you should be paid. Those who disagree would be best off campaigning for a change to NMW law, rather than having a pop at a whole generation as O’Neill has done.

      • Student1

        Or just apply to paid internships?

  • JohnAM123

    Classical economics would demonstrate that the introduction of the minimum wage brought about internships. Evidently, employers do not consider these workers to be worth the minimum wage. So you can either stay unemployed or take a job for some experience for no pay. If they abolished the minimum wage, employers could pay these youngsters what they are worth, say £20 a week…

  • Archana

    I disagree – there has to be some compensation for a year long internship. Even if an intern lives near their chosen internship and can stay at home, the work they do does count for something. Travel and food should be paid for at the very least. I know people who are heavily in debt because they got the coveted unpaid position at their dream company and it took them ages to pay it off.

    Summer internships don’t always have to be paid – but lets face it: If you get the chance to intern somewhere fabulous, it probably wont be near you so you have to rent a room, pay for travel and food outside of work. The loan to pay for 3 months somewhere fab is ok – if a room is £250-300 pcm, travel for 3 months is around £300-400 and food is around £100/month. Don’t forget clothes and shoes so you look the part.That’s another £300 at the very least. That’s around £2000 if we include all the incidentals. If a student does this for 2 summers – it’s not that bad if you take the whole loan for uni into account.

    Sadly, a lot of students opt for paid labour and office jobs for the summer so they can save up for the next academic year. Then they find it hard to get a job after graduation because they are competing with all the other people who braved the extra loans or asked their parents.

    I wont deny it – if i got a chance to work with a big company for a year without pay, i would have taken it as i have financial support. But even I got some compensation in the form of travel and food perdiem.

  • jason

    Say a company has a fairly menial assistant level job they need to fill.

    What incentive do they have to actually hire someone?

    Just get a new intern every six months and pay them in “valuable experience” instead of actual money.

    • Mandy Miller

      High staff turnover is bad for a company – productivity would be very low. I can’t think of many companies who would do this.

      • jason

        no, high staff turnover is bad when it’s higher level jobs that take many months to learn.

        if it’s some simple grunt work that takes like 2 weeks to learn, which is what I’m led to believe a lot of unpaid internships are, it would be more cost effective to spend a couple weeks training someone every few months and tell them they are getting an incredible opportunity for “education” and “career experience” than to hire someone with wages and benefits.

        Maybe some internships actually benefit interns but I bet a lot of companies cynically use interns to do stupid grunt work and don’t really care about educating them.

        • Trina K.

          So don’t take an internship. Easy.

          • jason

            it’s sad that companies are taking advantage of unemployed or underemployed young people.

            if people are desperate enough they’ll take any terrible job (or internship with false promises of leading to a job).

            it doesn’t make it right for companies to behave this way.

  • Annie Yactor

    Another lazy journalist who hasn’t researched the National Minimum Wage Law 1998. Look up the terms, intern, worker, volunteer, shadowing and then come back with some common sense.

  • Christopher M. Smith

    disgusting article

  • Dan Brittain

    If your business is doing so badly that you can’t afford to pay the wages of your employees, there is a problem with your business, not your workforce.

    • Guest

      Maybe they can’t afford to pay someone who is not worth 6 or 7 quid an hour, 6 or 7 quid an hour. If you want to be paid, equip yourself with the skills and experience that make you worth at least minimum wage.

      • Dan Brittain

        That’s beside the point. We mustn’t be naive about this: if a serious business is hiring staff, it’s not out of some misplaced sense of charity, it is to increase productivity and make profit. If you can’t afford trained staff, you take on untrained staff (interns) and train them yourself – not for their benefit, but for yours. If you can’t afford (or lack the foresight to invest in) untrained staff, then your business is unviable and will rightly fold.

        • Guest

          If I have to pay the people I’m taking on at least 7 quid an hour, I’m only going to take on people who are worth at least 7 quid an hour. That excludes unskilled and inexperienced young people. Basic truth.

          • Dan Brittain

            I completely agree, so businesses like yours should make a point not to offer internships: you can’t afford the labour time, and those would-be interns would be better off in menial jobs that pay, or on the dole – no question about it. If you can find skilled workers @ £7/hr, you may be doing well but imho *they* are almost certainly underselling themselves, depending on the job, of course. The minimum wage is there for a reason: it’s what the government considers the minimum amount of pay necessary to survive, and in the capital, even that is woefully inadequate. If you begrudge your workforce the means to eat, what does that say about you as an employer?

            Basically we need a radical change in attitude: internships should be synonymous with apprenticeships. An unskilled person (young or otherwise) should be able to start at the bottom on civilised pay, and work their way up until the business benefits. That way you keep your workforce moving, develop company loyalty and all the rest of it, and don’t need to hire again until they retire.

      • Student1

        So if you were running a law firm and you stuck with that idea, but then down the road 5 other law firms offered 16k+ benefits. I can tell you right now, everyone would apply to the law firms down the road. – Obviously these law firms have the best pick of the bunch. What does that leave you with? The people not as good who’d rather be working down the road. What will they do once they graduate? Probably apply for the law firms down the road. Thats what i’d do.

  • Teacher

    While I agree that many young people today are ‘entitled’. narcissistic and hedonistic and are of little use to any employer until these silly attitudes are worn away by a spell at the coal face of employment, I have to point out that the interns need to live, sleep, eat and travel and that this all costs money. If the internship is in London then we are talking about a lot of money. I subsidised my daughter to do a summer’s internship to the extent of about £250 a week without her seeing a penny of pocket money from all the work she put in. I was glad to be able to do it and the thought struck me that she was gaining a very great advantage over other students whose parents couldn’t afford to pay for their children’s internship expenses. Very cosy for us. But hardly fair:- the employer got an extremely useful employee for nothing and my daughter got a job the next year out of it at the expense of those who did not have the same C.V. experience. Tough luck on the others. A better and fairer system would be to pay at least minimumn wage and have short and renewable probabtion periods so the employers could take on new employees without the fear of being stuck with them should they prove to be unable to do the job.

  • Jetpace

    why would anyone want to be paid to work? I mean, really, wouldn’t it
    be wonderful if more young people worked for no wages to line the
    pockets of capitalists? They don’t need wages, the people who do get
    paid low wages in shit jobs pay enough
    tax to keep unpaid workers on their pitiful benefits while workplaces
    hiring workers without paying them avoid paying national insurance
    contributions. Yeah, that’s the way a fair and just society should work.
    Congratulations Brendan O’Neill, you are Wanker Of The Week!

    • Guest

      You may “want” to be paid to do your internship, but if your skills and experience such as they are are not worth at least 7 quid an hour to anyone, you’re not going to be able to force them to give you a paying job.

  • Gary Paterson

    One line in this article sums up my whole feelings on the subject, “The whole point of an internship is that it isn’t a job — it’s an opportunity”… indeed, an opportunity, but for whom?

    A summer “hanging out” in Fox Entertainment without pay would only be possible if you have someone to pay the bills for you so that you can eat, rent, and travel to your “hang out” sessions… If you do not have someone to pay you then you simply cannot do it… this is why we see young people from less affluent backgrounds (not even just working class) unable to break into these kinds of jobs.

    If you physically contribute to the financial progress of a company of course you should be properly remunerated. This should be a given, frankly it baffles me that this is even up for debate.

  • DougJeff

    As an intern who is fortunate enough to be paid, but having also undertaken an unpaid internship, I feel the need to comment.

    I have really struggled to take up internships, I have worked in horrendous low paid jobs to fund internships, and have been very fortunate in that my parents have supported me where possible. And yet I have found it very hard indeed to get a foot on the ladder. I once applied for a paid role as a “Research intern” I got to the interview but I didn’t get it. When I asked for feedback I was told (somewhat paraphrased):

    “You written exercise was one of, actually it was probably the best. You answers were excellent, to be honest you were just unlucky in that there was someone with more experience than you.”

    How do I get this experience? I take up internships, forgive me but as I was applying for an intern role I found this all very circular.

    There is another problem I would like to raise, where are most of these internships based? Is it by chance in London? The most expensive place to live in the UK. As someone from slightly further North this presented me a problem as it doubtless does for many others. It is not just a class issue it is a geographical issue.

    I find it quite alarming when saying, if you work, you should get paid is a controversial statement. I for example am currently being paid the living wage. I am incredibly grateful and regularly work through my lunch, extra unremunerated hours where necessary as well as being incredibly grateful to everyone I work with. They are kind enough to realise it would be impossible for me to live and work in London for free 5 days a week for 6 months while I learn.

    Is it hyperbole when some people compare unpaid internships to slavery? of course it is, it cheapens what thousands of people still suffer through and some of the most horrendous chapters of history. Had your point ended there good article. However if we want to live in a world where equality of opportunity is at least a target, then these practices are wrong and your harking back to yesteryear when it was possible are at best misguided and at worst counter-productive.

  • Guest

    He worked for Living Marxism – yet another attention-seeking Furediite like Mick Hume and Claire Fox. Yawn.

  • Joshua Dixon

    Yeah, because of course I am going to have a friends couch to kip on when my internship is based over an hour away from where I live and all my friends are. Oh and with working 40 hours a week I of course should just deal with it and find a Saturday job because this is, of course, still the 1980s. And anyway, how the fuck would a Saturday job pay for my travel which is in excess of 12 quid a day!?

  • Joe Kidd

    The most patronising thing about this entire article is the idea that interns are some form of glorified coffee machine. Currently me and several of my friends are doing internships and every single one of us is running a project independently. Yes we are learning, no we aren’t experts, but this will still have a lasting and significant benefit for the company. In my case I’m paid, because the company recognise that I’m doing a job for them. In some of my friends cases they work for free, despite making a valid contribution in their own rights.

    No it’s not ‘slavery’, it’s working without pay and it’s immoral.

  • Kent Alf

    And those who do not complain have parents who can afford to support them, thus closing that part of the job market to the less well-off. It used to be a university degree that kept classes apart. Now it is internships.

  • Trina K.

    All of these young inexperienced numpties want to be paid just for showing up.

    No-one is willing to pay them for just showing up.


    • Amy

      They’re not ‘just showing up’ though are they? Whether required to complete the most menial of tasks or work independently on projects that make a valid contribution to the running of a business, why shouldn’t they be paid? Their roles are identical to those of low-skilled workers or entry level employees who of course are all paid for the work they do.

  • tjamesjones

    What a lot of comments! If interns don’t want to work for no pay, they don’t have to! Do we want the state to get involved, is that the point of all the comments below?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    There is a certain foot-in-mouth quality to this story.
    “Events dear boy, events.”

  • max l

    i’d imagine a man who believes he posses the intelligence and ability for inter-generational dialogue needed to act as a worthwhile commentator on such topics, to realise that the slander of a generation of graduates of whom he has no financial or political understanding of is of no help to anyone.

    your generation has no spoken wisdom to impart upon us and it is only arrogance and a lack of ability to see the current state of affairs that could possibly lead to such a horrendous article. your generation didnt fight a justifiable war, neither did you didnt pay 8 grand a year for uni, graduate into a dying economy or even manage to leave a stable platform for the latter generations to work upon.

    • Guest

      What pathetic drama queens you lot are! Good grief.

  • Nicholas Byard

    A lot of my friends need to earn money to contribute to their household afloat and therefore can’t work for free. It is ignorant to imagine that pay isn’t a barrier.

  • Ben Lemieux

    “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” is a principle that everyone should be able to get on board with. How could you not?

    Every job, bar none, is a learning process. So it follows that is what an internship is: a job. How is it not? There are fixed hours, you sign a contract, you present yourself at an office, you complete assigned tasks, you improve your knowledge of your trade. That’s a job, people.

  • Mari Dahl Schlanbusch

    I have 6 years higher education, I speak four languages fluently and I moved back to my parents place to cut costs when I graduated. I know I am lucky to live in a state that provide student loans through a public loan fund and to have amazing parents who are letting me stay with them for free well into my twenties. However, I do not feel greedy to expect some sort of financial remuneration for doing a full time internship. A full time internship is not the same as doing volunteer work, I do my volunteer work at the side.

    The author clearly has no clue what a modern internship looks like, they are often more competitive than entry-level positions and thus raise the bar to get one. Many people spend two years or more in unpaid positions before they can expect a beginner’s salary. That is unfair.

    • Guest

      If you’re so awesome, why is it that your awesome skillz are worth nothing to anybody?

      If no-one wants to buy the product you’re selling, maybe you’ve just got a lousy product.

      • Mari Dahl Schlanbusch

        You are missing the point that internships today are competitive and can be extremely hard to get. Both you and the author seem to ignore the fact that the current global economy forces people who are well qualified for entry level positions to take unpaid internships to stay off unemployment. When internships are full-time, unpaid and require work experience, companies are not helping students to gain that experience, but cutting their own costs in an easy and unethical way.

  • UKSalesExperts

    I agree with very little in this post. There was a time when an internship meant the opportunity to gain invaluable experience that could almost instantly be leveraged into a great job.

    This is not the case today!

    Most interns are being used as slave labour doing low value work where nothing is learned. In most cases, there is no opportunity other than a virtually valueless line on a CV – a part-time job a McDonalds teaches more than the majority of internships.

    We take on several interns each year all of whom receive the National minimum wage and most of whom are offered full-time roles on completion of an internship. We teach, train and ask for real value. Internships have been too long abused by too many businesses and the practice should be ended.

    • GT

      “the practice should be ended.”

      The practice could be ended if interns were to stop taking unpaid internships.

      People are voluntarily, of their own free will, entering into these agreements. If they’re really as bad as all that, if they’re really “slavery”, then you have to ask why so many tens of thousands of unskilled youth are voluntarily signing on each year.

      Are they all stupid? Are they all retarded children who need the State to act as “responsible adult” and step in to protect them from themselves?

  • John Owens

    Internships are completely pointless when it comes to finding a paying job as it’s dogs body work which teaches nothing relevant. If anything all it shows is that you don’t value yourself or your work.
    If all you can find is intern work then you simply don’t have the qualifications, ability or connections to succeed in that field and it’s time to look elsewhere.

  • disqus_BxK5Mt4KLe

    In all honesty, this is the single most retarded article I have read. Quite obviously you were making coffee on your internship rather than learning anything.

  • JS

    This article, with all its unwarranted vitriole, glosses over the simple fact that people are supposed to get paid for the work they do. It’s the foundation of the modern socio-economic system and the free market – a very simple principle. It’s not unreasonable to expect to be paid for work that you do. And the argument that interning is an opportunity doesn’t really hold up either – the majority of employers are abusing this system by recycling interns as cheap labour without any prospect of a job. This is almost acceptable when the company is trading their name to put on a CV (e.g. Vogue, Conde Nast, Publicis) but not when the company is a small student marketing operation based in Croydon.

  • Ollie Lloyd

    This article is ridiculous. Not all interns demand money out of self-pity: many have the drive, but not the financial means to pursue their goals. For example, if you’re not from London, where so many internships are located, you have to find accommodation and money to live on without your parents looking after you – and good luck finding a temporary Saturday job these days! Not even bars or shops will hire you for just 3 months because they’ll want return on investment for their training you.

    According to this author internships aren’t jobs: they’re opportunities. It seems to me he’s just looking within the realm of the arts (film sets and journalism) and while I can’t comment on those, I do know that a lot of top companies work their interns just as hard as their normal staff. Why wouldn’t they – they get cheap labour, students get lots of experience. Earlier this year an investment banking intern died from being overworked. This is work, and not always an opportunity.

    The author says that the drive should be enough motivation. In that case he shouldn’t be paid for writing this “article”. His motivation should come from his love of writing, not from money. See? It’s nonsense!

    It’s just another article slating our generation because we complain too much. I won’t deny that, but I think we have the right to after what the previous generation have done. We’re the first generation who are going to be worse off than our parents – there’s too many graduates for too few jobs who have too much debt after wasting too much time at university.

    To use the cliché – money doesn’t grow on trees. If we ever want to see upwards social mobility again we can’t be denying motivated interns the financial backing they need. Why punish those who are motivated to work by paying them less than the Welfare State would!

  • J Smith

    What a crock. The point of ‘modern day’ in ‘modern day slave’ is exactly to qualify the phrase as being today’s version of slavery, so the literal comparisons to past forms of slavery are redundant and tedious. These constant reminders of those who patently had it worse only serve to make the ahistorical arguments that prop this flimsy article up more obvious. The rose tinted ‘back in my day’ tone pays no respect to the fact that times actually change- things are not necessarily the same as they were, and the author makes no effort to back his nostalgic and deeply personal ramblings with any proper evidence about how times were ‘then’ compared with now. The final paragraph brings the climax of this farce- the juxtaposition of the middle classes’ ‘patronising nonsense’ about grubby poor folk with the author’s own generalised nonsense about ‘resilient working class kids’ is almost too much. Full of vitriol and devoid of context and other points of view, this article smacks of a desperate attempt to be controversial.

  • tinou

    Internships can be a wonderful platform if used well!!

    I have been an intern for 2 years and a half during and after my studies, but

    I recently started my own company and I am now on the other side of the mirror.

    I have worked with a few of them now. They help me make the pieces and in exchange I teach them my manual skill, which is disapearing and very expensive to learn in uni.

    It is a situation where we all gain something and I believe that this is what an internship should be.

    Most of the interns I have worked with so far are absolutely not ready to be employed, it is simple, i firmly believe if internships did not exist they would not have a paid job and most of them would need to change industry in order to find work.

    School is only theory and you need a lot of practice in order to be ready for work! People should not pay you to make mistakes…

    I have interned in companies which are profitable but solely run on interns just because they want to save money! This happens a lot in my industry and should not be allowed! In that respect I understand those interns mouvements…

    But when I was an intern, I worked in mac donalds, slept in a double room with four friends, prepared for competitions during the night, folded thousands of jumpers in Zara….Only people who are willing to make sacrifices will make it, that is what has always been driven me. I never felt like they should pay me because I could see the difference between the employees and me. I was grateful they took me on, and spent time teaching me my future job!

    When a business manages to teach in exchange of a bit of help, and does not run on unpaid staff it can be a healthy and great experience for everyone!

  • Louise

    It’s preposterous that someone should expect to be remunerated for their work, simply on the basis of the fact that you are providing a skill that a company needs and that you desire to feed and clothe yourself.

    Just because the country’s unemployment levels is such that companies CAN take people on as interns and not pay them, that doesn’t mean that if you leave them to it they won’t eventually hire someone on a permanent basis to perform the function which can be done vaguely well for free. It’s basic economics.

    So let’s do nothing about this, and ridicule the politically active of the younger generation for being ungrateful little sods. After all, if you managed to get a stable, paid job in the most prosperous decades our country has ever seen, why can’t they?

  • Dionne Helene

    Apologies for wanting to be paid to work after spending £27,000 for the benefit of even being considered for the “all expenses paid placement for a year”. Interning is a two-way process. You make it sound like interns are a drain on a companies time and resources, but as a matter of fact it is a lot cheaper to teach someone to do the job and eventually employ them than it is to hire someone outright. And to be honest, in this climate it’s not as simple as just crashing at a friends for a year, consider that I had to travel across 4 zones to earn my expenses whilst supporting an 80 year old retired father on £15 a day. My company were incredibly fair, and after 3 months employed me full-time where I now enjoy a regular and very decent salary, but for many people they have to endure this placement period often without the potential of a job offer at the end, only to be passed over for roles because they don’t have a sufficient amount of experience. The entire system needs review, as does your assessment of interns, it seems as though you are completely uneducated on the matter.

  • Sarah Wharton

    I think a large problem with unpaid internships has been crucially missed here, that problem being that employers are reluctant to hire paid workers for junior/lower positions over free interns.
    I put myself through university, have done a number of internships in my relevant field, and also gained experience in Junior positions. But as these companies can get someone to do an internship for free, every time I apply for a position I am politely directed toward yet another unpaid internship, I mean why hire someone you have to pay if you can get someone else to do it for free?
    I was rarely asked to simply make coffee, I had a lot of responsibility- and I was happy for it, it gave me some truly amazing experience but this experience seems worthless unless I can now get paid for it. But I am no longer willing to work for free (How dare I?!). I’ve put in the time and work, lived off beans and slept on couches and I’m no better off. I’ve seen this happen to a few people I know, and its incredibly frustrating.

  • Lo Mat

    This article is too one-sided. I agree THERE ARE many self-entitled youths nowadays who feel like they deserve and need everything handed to them.

    But to say that all interns don’t deserve to get paid is absurd. The interns you described in your article is not even a big fraction of all interns.

    Perhaps you haven’t done much research of stories from past and current interns who make valid points as to why certain (not all) unpaid internships are wrong.

    A friend of mine was interning for a small company. Although she knew she was not getting paid for the internship, It was not made clear with her that the responsibilities she was going to do was beyond of an intern’s job. The worst part, she had to do more work than what the job description said with very little supervision (although the description said otherwise)

    This small AND FAST GROWING company was in need of a marketing coordinator. So instead of hiring a paid marketing coordinator, they hired an unpaid “marketing intern” because they choose not to pay.

    Although she learned essential skills such as taking the initiative, work efficiently with very little supervision, etc., It was very clear that this company found a loophole to fill crucial job positions without having to paying them.

    Again, you make valid points. But it’s a generalization. I’m glad your internship was a great one. But your views our outdated. I think you’re very naive to think that there aren’t any employers that use “interns” as a way to fill a position that’s clearly made for something beyond an intern’s capability.

  • WanderingHippie

    Dear, writer of this article. Mr. Brendan O’Neilll or whoever you are and I don’t really care.

    There is an Asian saying that says and literally translates itself as: ”No Money, No Talk”

    So, don’t fucking expect for work to be done when there’s no pay at the end of the day, will you? What speaks loudest at the end of the day is the income not the outcome.

    Because it is the income (what you pay), which ultimately determines the outcome (the work you produce) in any job. An internship is a fucking job, come to fucking terms with it.

    I am doing a paid internship and I am paid a lot of money, so I wouldn’t mind working my fucking ass off 9 to 6 confined behind my four walls each day and occasionally doing some running around.

    This is the 21st century, mate. As an Asian I’d love to say this straight to your face. No Money, No Talk.

  • Cormac Murray

    This article is either a parody, or just relentless trolling trying to catch a bite. Work is work, and should get paid at least the same as someone washing dishes in a kitchen.

  • MNB

    This is utter s***. I have worked 2 jobs while at University and only been able to intern for a 2 week period. For those who self-fund their degree this article is highly offensive. My internship cost me £200 in transport costs and left me so run down that I ended up in hospital (4.30 am starts and not back to my house until 9.30pm). I now am unable to consider this as an option due to the extreme costs. My loan doesn’t even cover half of my accommodation, and so I am working to pay the extra few thousands worth as well as food etc. I personally don’t see a problem with working while at University, but it is extremely difficult to manage everything as well as the added pressure to intern. I will be leaving University with an average degree and practically no intern experience, not because I am one of these ’empty-stomached sons of toil’, but because I literally cannot afford to live if I am working for free.

  • azerl

    Be welcome to portugal. a country where the massive amount of the few avaiable “jobs” are now called internships but mostly are not just and that is just an excuse to go back to SLAVERY. Many families cant afford their kids education less a unpaid internship. internships and mostly so called internships which are gratis work are feeding the machine of the rich. I dont know about what Switzerland and Norway rich people cant afford having n unpaind intern at home but thousands of portguese families CANT. If back to slavery, so lets go “Sartacus” if you know what i mean.

  • Connor Young

    “Hello? Yes I’m here to start my first day as a Doctor, I’ve got my shiny degree and everything, just point me to some patients! Oh, I have to do the first year at this hospital for free? That’s ok, I’m happy with a sandwich from Pret”

    Don’t see that happening, do you?

  • Rana

    Yes, let’s completely ignore the students who live alone and need the money. Let’s just completely ignore the students who CAN’T -not won’t, but CAN’T- rely on their parents to take care of them anymore.
    Also let’s completely ignore the fact that WE still have to pay to actually sustain and commute to work every single time so that we can do YOUR work for YOU. Let’s completely ignore that jobs are hard to find, so alot of people have to settle for internships because it sure beats being unemployed and doing nothing with oneself.
    Also why even bother with interns who NEED the money for frivolous things like, let’s see, healthcare and rent? You know, silly things you don’t think about because you actually MAKE enough money for it to not matter as much to you.

    And work experience is fine, but will it put food on the plate? Will ‘experience’ pay rent? Will the experience keep my cell phone running, or keep me on my prescribed meds that I HAVE to take, or give me enough money to allow to be social like a normal human being in a social society?
    If you can’t afford interns, please, don’t enroll any. We could do without the desperation and false hope that if we get enough coffee cups or sort through enough paperwork, someone will finally see our potential through this ‘experience’ and offer us a paid job.

  • Abe6772

    I think interns shouldn’t get paid. Internships are meant to get people ready for a job, but it’s not an entry level job. It prepare thems, and I, to get ready for a entry level. Interns should get off their high horse and see that maybe the experience is better than any money.

  • Stefan Boldisor

    Shame on you Spectator! You know nothing about life! Yeah, clearly, why would you even be bothered to find out how one is supposed to pay for his living and his rent with only 400 pounds a month?! Just utterly outrageous, your so called witty diatribe you are putting so craftily on your website.

  • Jazo

    You literally stated that it’s okay to expect someone to be completely and utterly homeless for the honor of an internship. What rubbish. Pay minimum wage, balance the system so that both sides benefit instead of the vague expectations we have now, treat it like an entry level job for the educated.

    Also, get fucked.

  • Ingrid Fourie

    The problem is not that young people have a sense of entitlement, the problem is that corporations have a sense of entitlement, making it virtually impossible to enter the job market without submitting to either unpaid internships or minimum wage type employment. You will see this startling and continued trend of exploitation in many fields, not limited to journalism. Hard work no longer means reward as many employees no longer have the expectation of receiving decent salaries. Professional fields are becoming “minimum wage” field days for corporates who laugh all the way to the bank. Hence you will find your trainee lawyer who has worked hard at earning a degree, having to fund his/her own entry into the job market whilst he/she barely has enough to live off and often working in abusive working environments. I recently read an article comparing the pay of barristers at the UK criminal bar to that of baristas and finding that the baristas actually earn more than the criminal bar barristers. In fact, it is not just “young people” that are affected by this exploitative situation, but also those having entered the job market at a time of global financial crunch who are now in their 30s and facing the depressing situation that their earnings have not increased whereas the cost of living has increased substantially, leaving the poor sod out of pocket and now having to rely on the help of parents for basic survival (rent, food, electricity)! Now if that isn’t akin to slavery, I don’t know what the modern day version is. There may no longer be chains to bond us, but the chains are real. If you are no longer unemployed, you may be left destitute within a matter of weeks if you didn’t have anyone to keep you alive. Now that, contrary to the view of this antiquarian, is as close as you can come to slavery as ever. In fact it is so pervasive, the global supply chain is not clean either. Get a grip. An internship is no longer a nice option chosen to further your career. It is now becoming necessary to enter many careers or be denied entry and be welcomed to unemployment.

  • GraduateAnalyst

    Go screw yourself. The amount of generalizations and pulling the “entitled” card are pathetic. Unpaid internships are often full time and in 1978, family could rent a multi-bedroom home in the country for $300-$500 and buy a truck in the high 4 digits. Now the same homes are 3-5 times that and the new version of the trucks are around $25,000-$45,000. Meanwhile, the same job they had only went up in average wages by around 20-25%. Everything else, including gas, went up over 300%.

    Now asshats like you act like we are entitled because in your day and age, these things were manageable with a few days a week night job. Every single year, more job titles get added to the list of careers that are not self-sufficient. Meanwhile, capitalism/investors rely on profit to continually increase creating an ever growing margin between workers and rich owners. If a person has $100 million and only spends $20 million. That is $80 million that is no longer benefiting businesses and being circulated. Now if they made $50 million, they would still be filthy rich and more money would be circulating. Instead, over time that $100 million will jump to $110 million, then $120 million and the wages will stay relatively stagnant in regards to inflation.

    Investors rely on profits or else they back off. So there isn’t even incentive to fix the economy. If profits stay they same, they simply drop workers to increase profits by paying out less.

    Unpaid internships are legalized slavery with the catch phrase “work experience”, “opportunity”, and “possible position in the company” attached to it while the management chuckles inside their head.

    Education and internships should not be limited to those with outside help or that already have money. With the constant exponential increase in the price of necessities, it is completely moronic to think that there is equal opportunity for the poor to break out of the lower class.

    So again, go fuck yourself Mr./Mrs./Ms. Conservative prick.

    • Keith Courn Al-Sheytani

      Well said Graduate Analyst. Ive never been an unpaid intern but there is absolutely no excuse to use someone for work without paying them for their time.

  • “Imagine spending your summer hanging out with Natalie Portman and other Hollywood bigwigs. Oh, the humanity!”

    Yeah, right. Such a great opportunity. The privileged are so generous to provide the unprivileged with such great unpaid “opportunities.”

    “The demand that internships become paid positions is an extension of modern youth’s corrosive belief that everything they do should be instantly rewarded.”

    Instantly? Nope. It’s called salary, or remuneration. I bet you get it now too.

    Just because you suffered the same in your time, which was much better to live on scraps than it is now , doesn’t mean the youngsters these days have to suffer the same too. There’s obviously going to be a revolt sooner or later.

  • Arwhen Trulove

    You are crazy…..MY internship IN 1991 involved 8 weeks of 40 hours work I DROVE 30 MILES ROUND TRIP EVERY DAY……It COST me 1500 ( college charged for the “CLASS” ) and I had to pay for 8 WEEKS of childcare for my 2 year old son. ANOTHER 1000 DOLLARS ! In comparison, the military for 8 weeks pays YOU about 2500 dollars …HM yeah I am FULL of self pity? don’t turn the conversation around to MY FEELINGS the facts are this time IS MONEY and interns are FREE slave labor . ODD JOBS ON THE WEEKEND DOES not PAY THE RENT PAL!!!

  • Arwhen Trulove

    Um by the way that is DRIVING 1250 MILES ! MILES ! get it? twelve HUNDRED and FIFTY miles