Unpaid internships have been the norm in many industries for decades. It’s been accepted that in order to obtain employment in these fields, one must first work for free. But unpaid internships are on the rise and that means more industries may begin taking advantage of job seekers. All workers deserve pay, whether they’re fetching coffee or designing a webpage for a company. Unpaid internships should be illegal for a few important reasons.
First, unpaid internships close off opportunities to the poor and middle class. The number one reason people should be concerned with lack of pay for interns is that the poor, working, and middle class may be shut out of certain industries completely. Only wealthy people can afford to work for free, and these jobs are often located in high cost of living areas. That means the rich take the top jobs and the rest take what’s left (if anything).
Another reason to be concerned about unpaid internships is that they could spread to other industries. Employers in industries that typically pay interns could also start taking advantage of inexperienced job seekers. And with employers unwilling to invest in training, that means college students and graduates may be expected to cover moving and living expenses in order to work at a job that doesn’t even pay.
Non-paying jobs also drive down wages. If there are people willing to work for free, then from an employers viewpoint, any paying job is very desirable even if the wages are low. This could mean employees in all fields and at all experience levels eventually see decreasing wages and benefits.
Finally, unpaid interns allow companies to get by with fewer paid employees. Unpaid internships are technically legal if they only benefit the intern, but it’s hard to imagine any internship that doesn’t somehow benefit the employer as well. Therefore, these are employees that employers don’t have to pay, removing the need to create more paying jobs for those who need them.
Unpaid internships benefit only one group of people-the wealthy. Everyone else stands to lose from unpaid workers. How can you take action? Don’t take an unpaid internship. If people aren’t willing to work for free companies will be forced to pay all workers something. You can also help by spreading the word at your college or university about the negative impact of unpaid internships. And contact your representative in congress to let them know how you feel.