Unpaid internships are often the only option for young people desperate for a job and struggling to find employment.
But research published recently Trades Union Congress found that close to four in five (78 percent) of 18-34 year olds could not afford to take up an unpaid internship in London.
The research, undertaken for Unions21 by Survation, comes just as young trade unionists meet at the TUC headquarters in central London for its annual young members’ conference.
Many of the UK’s most popular internships are located in the capital, frequently centred on the film, television and media sectors.
But the high cost of living away in London – in excess of £1000 a month – puts these opportunities out of reach of many talented young people.
Twelve percent of the 18 – 34 year olds questioned in the survey said they either definitely or probably had the money to take up an unpaid internship in London.
Three in five (61 percent) definitely didn’t have the money to do so, while a further 16 percent said they probably wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Family members were also asked about the affordability of internships for younger relatives. Eighty-five percent said no-one in their family would have the resources to live away from home in the capital for work that wasn’t paid.
Just 15 percent thought an unpaid internship was either definitely, probably or maybe a viable option for the youngsters in their family.
Unpaid internships are one way for employers to get extra resource and young people to receive on-the-job training. But it must be a two-way street. Internships are not a panacea but one form of alternative employment for young people alongside apprenticeships and work experience. It’s up to HR to decide what is most suited to the company and the applicants.
TUC Assistant General Secretary Kay Carberry said: “This week unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds nudged towards the million mark again. With many youngsters finding it impossible to even get interviews for jobs, their lack of work experience means that they are losing out to older job hunters with more experience.”
“Of course, internships can be a good thing - young people can get valuable experience and a route into a career - but all too often internships are about exploitation, staff being undercut, and employers benefitting from a huge pool of cheap and willing labour.”
Co-Director of Intern Aware Gus Baker said: “These shocking statistics show that a generation is being let down by unpaid internships.
“With overwhelming majorities of young people not able to afford to work for free, the government needs to take real action now to enforce the national minimum wage law and make sure interns are paid.”
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