Blog post

Intern Nation continues to fuel major debate on unpaid labor

Jennifer Pan 9 May 2012

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.

Filed under: interviews