Do Unpaid Internships Deepen Social Inequalities Or Provide A Useful Experience?

A university professor told me to attend every event possible to build my CV. Following their advice, I attended seminars, conferences, and competitions. Meanwhile, I also pursued multiple unpaid internships. As a student without experience, it seemed like the only logical solution to build my career.

Internships are a good way for a student to start their career. Are you in school or university? Are you changing your career path? It may help you improve your professional skills while assessing if you like it. While looking for full-time work, relevant experience can be noteworthy. 

Why is an internship worth it? Let me tell you six reasons why. 

Internships help to put theoretical classroom knowledge to practical use

Through internships, students may put their knowledge to the test in the real world and concentrate on learning a specific skill. It helps to learn something new, get a feel for the workplace, and learn more about the selected professional path.

Internships expose students to the real world

The sad reality is that getting excellent grades at university is no longer enough in the job market. The value of a degree has diminished. Recruiters seek practical knowledge while selecting the best graduate for the position.

Soft and transferable skills, such as problem-solving, are given importance. Young grads and students learn a lot when networking and establishing relationships in the business world.

According to a hiring platform study, 68% of employers and 61% of graduates believe that undergraduate degrees are no longer sufficient to land an appropriate employment opportunity.

59% of employers indicated they were more inclined to recruit a graduate with job experience or an internship than one without.

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Internships help to choose a career path

Internships may not be directly related to the professional field of interest. Students can learn transferable skills, discover new interests, or confirm their selected career paths by pursuing internships in similar industries. 

Internships could turn into a full-time job

As an intern, there is considerably more to the experience than just working on different projects. After graduating successfully, it could transform into a full-time job. Getting real-world experience in your field of interest through an internship is an advantage.

Internships could be a source of income while studying 

Some companies offer internships with compensation. Students can make money while gaining experience at the entry level. But salaries may vary and are frequently lower than permanent employees. It is an option to concentrate on education and work with a bit of financial support.

Internships could be a kickstart to boost confidence after a career gap for women

Internships may provide flexible employment alternatives. For professional and personal life balance, women can work from home or opt for part-time internships in offices. If they return to the workforce after a break, they can choose in-office internships and ease back into the job market over time. 

Unpaid Internships: Labour Exploitation or Valuable Experience?

Since I have established why an internship can be valuable, let us delve deeper into the topic that prompted me to write this article in the first place, unpaid internships. Are they unethical? Is it worth the effort? Or are they a way to learn new skills?

After the pandemic, there has been a rise in online internships. In which a portion of them are without stipend. While it can provide students and recent graduates with experience, it may come at a cost, and many argue that they are a roadblock to society’s advancement.

They are not everyone’s go-to. Research has shown that they are highly regarded in the job market. But, the typical student in Europe spends more than €1000 (~90,000 INR) per month on an internship that is not paid. 

One may argue that exposure is the currency that pays. 

But today, money is not a luxury. It is a means of survival

The time and effort invested into an internship should be valued rather than seen as an obligation. But, interns are required to labour for no pay, maybe for lengthy shifts, without receiving anything in return for their time or effort. Startups or small businesses, whose employers sometimes lack sufficient funds to pay interns, are particularly attracted to this technique.

For interns, especially those from low-income backgrounds, it can be a significant financial hardship. Especially after the COVID-19 outbreak, we realize everybody needs financial support. With inflation and bills to pay, be it rent, food, or petrol.

And after graduation, the majority of interns will still owe millions in student loans.

Can we say that someone is exploited when not paid for their services? 

The only realistic way to meet the standards in an industry where entry-level jobs require at least five years of professional experience is through internships. But in return for the work done, they provide “perks” like Letters of Recommendation, freebies (merchandise), or gift cards.

Prominent for-profit organizations that advertise for unpaid interns make the situation worse. Did you know that forty-three percent of internships at for-profit businesses are without stipends? 

Unpaid internships are less likely than paid internships to result in a job offer or expose interns to necessary professional skills. In many circumstances, it lacks legal protection.

Consequently, youngsters find it challenging to report unlawful conduct because they fear reprisals and potential black marks in careers, which harms mental health. There are also gender-specific differences for women. A study shows forty-six percent of women were not compensated, versus twenty-four percent of men.

We cannot afford to burden young people with this crisis while they seek to find respectable employment

Even more troubling, specific companies charge interns for the work experience they provide. Furthermore, employment benefits are minimal to non-existent for unpaid positions. Even if someone could afford it, they would be obliged to work without pay and job stability.

We all should be compensated for our labour, knowledge, and skills. No one should take this for granted or use us unfairly. 

To conclude, unpaid internships have become widespread. They can provide practical experience while developing soft skills and networking. But they have also drawn criticism for years.

The work can exploit young people and unfairly target individuals who cannot support themselves without money. The debate surrounding paid, and unpaid internships has to be adequately addressed.

Have you pursued an unpaid internship? How was your experience


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About the Author

Mirali Borde

Mirali Borde is an aspiring writer trying to make it in this world. read more...

27 Posts | 13,686 Views

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