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via [livejournal.com profile] moominmuppet

"How Unpaid Internships Perpetuate Rampant Inequality in the US," by Anna Lekas Miller

Excerpt:
Recent graduates, disturbed by the dearth of job opportunities, began to take internships as a last resort to stay competitive in the labor market. Although an internship used to be akin to an apprenticeship—a temporary stint of unpaid, hands-on labor resulting in an eventual job offer—the explosion of both college students and recent graduates taking internships no longer guarantees a paid position. Instead, as more and more young people demonstrated they were willing to supply an unpaid labor force so long as it was framed as an “internship,” internships have become a means for companies and non-profit organizations to re-package once paying jobs and cut corners in a tight economy.

Internships are the new entry-level job—the same duties and basic experience, only this time without compensation or benefits.
Unpaid internships were common when I was in college in the early 1980s, but I refused to take one. I had an idea that it was important for me to work for a paycheck. Nevertheless, my parents and I paid for my first career job in three ways: (1) I got a bachelor's degree (my parents paid my tuition); (2) I went to the Denver Publishing Institute summer program (my parents paid my tuition); (3) I took an entry level publishing job that paid $10K a year to start, which didn't cover my expenses (and my expenses didn't include student loans). However, the job did have health benefits.

I see that the long and venerable tradition of paying for entry into a career path continues, although it sounds like it's somewhat worse than it used to be. Another excerpt:
It's becoming more and more expected for college students to have had at least one, if not several, internships by the time they graduate. Students that come from a privileged background, with parents who are willing and able to finance sometimes serial internships, are able to survive in internship culture financially unscathed. Eventually, they intern for long enough to make the connections necessary to break into the white-collar world. But students from lower- or even middle-income backgrounds feel financially stressed taking on unpaid work, but many do anyway to compete with their more privileged peers in the job market.

Date: 12 Oct 2011 02:21 pm (UTC)
maize: (Default)
From: [personal profile] maize
I friend of mine graduated quite some time ago and worked a long series of unpaid internships. By long series, I mean, many, many, many years. None had any opportunity to turn into a paid position. Eventually, she started getting paying positions, but by "paying," they required extremely extended hours and didn't pay anywhere even remotely near a living wage. She eventually went back to school for a Masters, hoping that would make a difference, and for quite a while it didn't seem to at all, and most of the positions available to her were still unpaid internships. She's finally gotten a paying position that pays something like a reasonable-but-not-great wage. It's taken her... maybe ten or twelve years to get to that point. It's been really depressing to see. She does come from a privileged background, and has been (and still is) living with her parents to facilitate a lot of this. She also has a mountain of debt, including student loans that are more or less never going to be repaid the way things are going at the moment, but also including just creative uses of credit cards and such when she would have to do things like pay for transit or gas or car repairs (or a car) to get to and from jobs that didn't pay anything. I get that she's in an industry that's worse for this than others, but still, it was pretty alarming to see, especially for someone like me, who basically walked out of school and into a decently-paying job.

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