Monday, September 30, 2013

The drawbacks of unpaid internships in charities

Earlier this month the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog published a post by Charlotte Gerada on research she has conducted on unpaid internships.

From an online survey she found that these were most common in the charitable sector and advances two arguments suggesting they are a bad idea.

The first, which is familiar but none the less powerful for that, runs:
Socially, a lack of accessibility and equality of opportunity could lead to the sector becoming less diverse and more elitist, further halting social mobility. In terms of wider labour market implications, many interviewed charities admitted that unpaid internships reduced entry-level positions and depressed wages in the sector.
As a result of this elitism and inaccessibility, the voluntary sector is losing out on talented, passionate and committed young people, and runs the risk of becoming a sector reserved for those from wealthy backgrounds.
And the second one, which is new to me, runs:
This research suggests that not paying interns is a vicious cycle: charities that don’t pay generate non-essential tasks, leading charities to believe that interns benefit more from the internship, reinforcing justification to not pay. Thus, charities and interns gain little from the arrangement.
You can read Charlotte Gerada's full report on the Unite website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can vouch for that. I remember spending the latter half of one internship constantly pestering everybody else to give me things to do. At that time the office was starting a whole range of big projects and nobody was about to give an intern who was leaving in a month responsibility for them, so I was sent of to do an expansive literature review. Since I was only an intern and hadn't done anything like this before a great deal of this involved talking to people about where I should look for articles etc, thus taking them away from the projects they were on. I am sure that the work I did wasn't worth paying me for doing and that I was probably a net drain on resources at that time, so not paying me looked justified, on the other hand the only reason I was still there was so that i could say I was there...