Guest post by Peter Matjaši, President of the European Youth Forum.
Today the European Youth Forum, along with the European Students’ Union (ESU), has published an open letter to five UK universities, which are taking a stand against unpaid internships and are from now on refusing to advertise these (undoubtedly popular) unpaid internships to their students. The European Youth Forum, along with ESU, applauds this bold move! Young people should not have to work for free, in what often amounts to little more than slave labour, just in order to be in a position to at some point in the future get paid work.
Of course, this is not just a UK issue; it is widespread across the whole of the EU and is of course something we see a lot of in Brussels itself. We believe that internships can be a very valuable experience for young people in their transition from education to the labour market. However, certain quality criteria have to be achieved in order to ensure that this experience is useful, fair and accessible for all young people.
Of course, some internships are part of quality education and are an integral training experience as part of, for example, a university degree. However, for internships that take place outside the framework of formal education, remuneration is vital. The European Youth Forum and the European Students’ Union believe that unpaid internships are a form of social discrimination. Interns must be paid for the work they carry out throughout an internship in order to ensure that all young people, regardless of their social and financial background, can have access to such an experience. Remuneration should not be below the EU poverty line of 60% national median income or national minimum wage.
The European Youth Forum has outlined quality criteria for internships in the European Quality Charter for Internships and Apprenticeships. As the Charter states, internships should ideally take place within the framework of formal education, in which case, reimbursement must be offered to students for the costs incurred throughout their internship.
The European Youth Forum and the European Students’ Union would like to congratulate the UK universities that have taken this stand against unpaid internships. We strongly encourage more education providers, job advertising sites and recruitment companies across Europe to take this kind of bold step in order to encourage internship providers to offer internships that are educational, paid and do not discriminate against certain sectors of the youth population.
Read the letter in full via this link.