A new survey by the European Youth Forum reveals that three out of four young Europeans are either unpaid or do not receive sufficient compensation to pay for their living expenses. Only about 25% of all respondents were able to pay all of their living expenses with their internship allowance. The European Youth Forum conducted a 4-month survey and obtained slightly over 3000 responses.
According to the survey, a large majority of employers did not give a particular reason of why they could not pay their interns, prompting 64,7% of the respondents to rely on funding from their parents. From the survey results, it becomes clear what employers are banking on. Taking out a loan of 4000 EUR for a 6-month unpaid internship deters those applicants whose parents cannot finance them. Employers thereby ensure that applicants will come from a wealthy background and preferably received a high degree of informal education via their personal environment.
From a recent Twitter exchange with the World Development Movement, a small development NGO based in the UK, I gathered two things:
WDM refuses to pay its interns despite +£139,217 in last year's accounts
When I confronted them, they pointed to the small size of their organization and more importantly to the fact that "we only recruit internally, thus giving interns a much stronger chance of employment with WDM" and that "if we had to pay wages to interns, it would be unlikely that we could offer an internship programme".
In other words, this NGO asks its interns to pay their way in. On the other hand, where would they get highly-qualified personnel if they didn't have the luxury of a 6-month scrutiny of the intern's capabilities, paid by the intern him or herself?
WDM is only one of the examples for insufficient treatment of interns and for bleak inconsiderateness about the world's future qualified labor pool. There are many more.
In cooperation with MEP Emilie Turunen and other partners, the Youth Forum is elaborating a Quality Charter for Internships at the request of the European Parliament. It will be non-binding, but if there is a clear measuring rod, interns have a document to which they can point when they demand their rights in future.
On 8 September, the II Youth Convention on Volunteering kicks off. More than 1500 registered participants are expected in the European Parliament in Brussels and on the Esplanade in front of it from 8 to 11 September. Many more young people from Brussels and its surroundings will visit workshops, events, discussions and free concerts on the Parliament Esplanade from Thursday afternoon to Saturday evening.
For those based in Brussels, the Convention offers a great opportunity to find information about volunteering and volunteers' rights, to join workshops, events, discussions and free concerts and to meet young people from all over Europe.
Those outside of Brussels may be interested in following the live blog of the event. Over three days, a young blogger team (disclaimer: I am one of them) will follow events, discussions, workshops and concerts for online readers.
Hope to see you online or offline - at the II Youth Convention on Volunteering.