Too many employers have convinced themselves that experience, plus a few quid for a sandwich and the bus fare, is an acceptable form of payment – we just never expected one of those employers to be the man who introduced the minimum wage law.
So says Tanya de Grunwald, founder of Graduate Fog, about recent revelations that Tony Blair has been staffing his offices with unpaid interns. According to the Guardian, one candidate for Blair's office had a 90-minute test before being told he was unsuitable because he was only able to commit to four days of unpaid work.
Verso author Ross Perlin was keen to draw attention to the fact that "experience" and "exploitation" seem to have the same meaning today with his book Intern Nation. In the wake of Perlin's book there has been a steady restructuring of internship rights and wages i.e. they appear to actually exist now. But the fact that former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is reported to make an annual income of £20m and who draws a public allowance and prime ministerial pension would not enforce his own wage legislation will probably not surprise everyone.
A spokesperson from HMRC has stated that they "always act on allegations of NMW abuse", while a statement from Tony Blair's office has said they value their interns "very highly".
I'm sure they do.
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.
Softies such as Ross Perlin, the author of “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy”, complain that unpaid internships are exploitative. They also fret that only well-heeled youngsters can afford to work for nothing. If an internship is the first rung on the career ladder, the less affluent will never climb it.Verso intern here, with generous post-Intern Nation wages. Of course, it's fitting for a news magazine to gloss over intern exploitation—O, to think of my comrades' gaunt, unpaid eyes as they factcheck or proofread against their self-interest—but when wholly discarding that little thing we know as class privilege, I don't know where to begin. Rent, food, and transport costs have pleasantly flown, notwithstanding the absence of personal income. Because hey, as The Economist reports, it seems you should do anything—even say, take out an intern loan, attendant with intern debt—to gain that valuable "experience:"
Others disagree [with Perlin]. “Anything that gives people an opportunity to gain experience is a good thing,” shrugs Jim Tapper of Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, a headhunter.Conclusions: Rent is high. Intern wages are low to nil. Now, what matter if some have more money than others? Everyone should intern because gaining experience is a good thing, as said with a shrug.
Yesterday, Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How To Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy, made an appearance on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," where he discussed the negative impact of internships on the economy and the increasingly exploitative nature of unpaid work:
Recently, a number of news outlets have reported on the increasing numbers of college grads taking unpaid internships--and the steadily growing backlash to this condition, citing Ross Perlin’s groundbreaking study, Intern Nation. Time Magazine predicts the end of the unpaid internship, with Perlin noting,“I think we may be at the very early stages of a significant backlash against an internship phenomenon that has gone off the rails.”
However, The New York Times reports that the demand for unpaid internships remains high despite. Speaking to journalist Steven Greenhouse, Perlin reflected,
The people in charge in many industries were once interns and they’ve come of age, and to them unpaid internships are completely normal and they think of having interns in every way, shape and form.
Perlin also appeared in a video interview for The Nation to speak about precarious labor as a whole, pointing out the ways in which internships fit into a larger picture of a new precarious class. He additionally spoke to The Bat Segundo Show about the difficulties of gauging public opinion on internships, stating:
I think it’s hard to know what the degree of public support for interns is. In the UK, the public has been polled on the issue. And there’s a very strong feeling that interns should be paid. And a very strong majority feels that what goes on now is wrong. In the U.S., it’s hard to know. But I suspect you would still see most people thinking interns should be paid. But there are complex feelings. And I think that part of it is because there is, as you say, a strange dichotomy. Interns are both privileged and exploited at the same time.
The updated paperback edition of Intern Nation is now available.