Investigating internships

March 23, 2011, 11:48 PM UTC

A large majority of respondents to a recent survey on internships is not aware that companies who do not pay their interns may be breaking the law, although most value the work they do for the company.

In a survey conducted for Internocracy, we interviewed 1,858 people about their views and experiences of internships. Many of those asked had worked in companies that take on interns, and while panellists thought that the work interns did was of value to the company, a strong majority were not aware that paying them little to nothing in return may be illegal.

  • 84% of those who had worked in a company which took on interns believed they were useful to the company
  • 21% of respondents who had done an internship received no monetary payment of any kind
  • A further 22% received expenses only
  • 84% did not know that companies who currently offer unpaid or expenses-only internships may be breaking the law
  • 59% thought that companies exploit interns as a source of free labour
  • 40% of those who had thought about applying for an internship said that they changed their mind as they were not in a position to be able to work for free, and 39% of those who were offered an internship had to turn it down for the same reason

Getting your foot in the door

The recent boom in companies offering unpaid internships comes in the wake of the news that youth unemployment in Britain has hit a record high. With so many 18-24 year olds vying for jobs and the all-important foot in the door, companies know that they can offer short term positions for little or no remuneration and be assured of eager applicants.

Yet, this trend towards unpaid internships as a means into work threatens to etch a social divide into the job market: taking on unpaid work is, of course, only an option for those with adequate financial support to afford it.

Chancellor George Osborne today announced that the Government intends to create 50,000 new apprenticeships in the next three years, 10,000 of which are to be advanced and higher level places. And with 86% of respondents in our survey agreeing that youth unemployment is a big problem and 82% arguing that more needs to be done to help young people move from education into work, it is clear that many of these panellists agree that this is one issue that needs addressing.

Full results coming soon