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Ross Perlin: "Whatever happened to the principle of a fair day's pay for a hard day's work?"

Sarah Shin21 February 2011

Ross Perlin gives a potted history of the import of internships to the UK from America for the Mail on Sunday. Warning "Britain of what may be ahead", Perlin lays out his argument against the ever-growing practice of exploiting young people for cheap labour and its social cost:

Many internships, especially the small but influential sliver of glamorous ones, are the preserve of the wealthy.

They provide the already privileged with a major head start and serious professional and financial dividends over time.

Internships play a role in making sure the rich stay rich or get richer, while the poor get poorer - barred from the world of white-collar work, where high salaries are increasingly concentrated in today's economy.

For the well-heeled looking to guarantee their offspring's future prosperity, internships are a powerful investment vehicle, an instrument of self-preservation in the same category as private tutoring, exclusive schools and trust funds ...

In fact, internships are skewing the fields that matter most to broader society: most of those who will shape politics, culture, business and the voluntary sector in the coming years will be former interns who had the family money and connections - and in some cases the sheer persistence - to break in.

If this has always been true to some extent, internships are making matters worse, working against efforts to democratise higher education and diversify the workplace.

In the wake of the Tory party auction of internships for an average of £3000, the Mail on Sunday reports that David Cameron is to ban the practice of selling them. But, as the row between ministers over the use of unpaid, illegal interns shows, the real issue is how to properly renumerate interns for their work, not least in order to move towards levelling the playing field for people who cannot afford to work for an extended period of time without pay. 

Visit the Mail on Sunday to read Ross Perlin's article in full, and more about the political fall-out

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