Today I read a pretty crazy thing. Well, crazy for me anyway, but apparently it’s not that big a deal for Members of Parliament. Early last week the House of Commons was supposed to hear the Paid Internships Bill. For those who are not familiar with it; the bill basically bans the advertising of all unpaid internships in the UK. By reducing access to unpaid positions, the bill hopes to protect internship seekers, the majority of whom are young graduates, from becoming exploited labour. To some people “exploited labour” sounds fairly exotic. It isn’t. It happens every day to a number of my friends here in the UK. Finding an internship that pays you more than your travel expenses is tough.
“If you are not going to invest in their education, you could at least try to invest in their futures”
Trust me, I’m a recent graduate. There are two things that made me pretty angry about this Bill. Firstly, it is designed to protect graduates from getting trapped in a circumstance where they feel that they must work for free in order to experience in their desired field of work. An admirable cause, but the bill doesn’t actually deliver this. The wording of the bill means unpaid positions can still exist, they will just find it harder to reach their target audience. It is exactly like a parent switching on the mature content blocker for their child’s browser; it does not eradicate the threat, it just screens over it and unsuitable content always gets through somehow. In the same way, desperate work experience seekers will still be able to find these positions one way or another, and the current economic climate will push them to take them. As if the paper-thin protection offered by the Bill wasn’t bad enough, it turned out that nobody actually turned out to hear the Bill being read. That’s right; not a single soul.
“expressing the least concern for us.”
As a recent graduate, this is devastating and I am feeling somewhat betrayed. In her article for The Independent – Sabina Usher tries to answer the question, why did this happen? And her conclusion is that it is simply “not a party issue”. My immediate response was, how is it not a party issue? It is completely illogical for any party to ignore this Bill. There are thousands of angry and frustrated students who were disappointed by the Government’s decision to allow Higher Education fees to rise to £9000 a year. If you are not going to invest in their education, you could at least try to invest in their futures; create a safe environment for them to graduate into, don’t throw them to the wolves. This raises another question; when are we, the students and graduates, going to be seen as a valuable target demographic in the voting arena? Yes, a lot of people my age, the students and graduates, are disillusioned with politics, but that is no excuse for ignoring us all together.
” They are asking a young adult to give up their independence”
We are the people who will be running the country when all the MPs in seats right now are old and will expect us to take care of them, yet they are expressing the least concern for us. The fact that many organisations offer no money or merely refund travel expenses is fundamentally wrong. People get paid to learn how to operate in their chosen industry, they are called apprentices. Why is an “intern” any different? This word is becoming synonymous with “unpaid”. Some people believe that all of this is OK. They think that if you are really motivated to get into your chosen industry then you will be willing to make sacrifices. I believe these people should stop and truly consider this “sacrifice”. They are asking a young adult to give up their independence, to move back in with their parents and become financially dependent on them again. Effectively, they can be worse off than they were when they used to work in a takeaway at sixteen years old. If you are a student or a graduate, write to your MP! Tell them that you need them to make the Paid Internships Bill a reality, or better still to ban unpaid positions altogether. This is your future – make them take notice! Visit: internaware.org/
[toggle title=”Submitted by Lizzie Fraser”]Lizzie Fraser is recent graduate in Anthropology. Lizzie is passionate about upholding human rights and promoting healthy living. She spends most of her time dabbling in the dark art of wordsmithing and freelance writing.
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