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Should unpaid internships be banned in the UK?

DEBATE: Should unpaid internships be banned in the UK?

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...

YES
NYIMA PRATTEN

I have had many unpaid internships in numerous industries yet none of these companies, which I have so diligently slaved away for, paid me anything close to a living wage.

Young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is hard to get a job in any industry, especially the most popular ones, without relevant work experience. In turn, it is hard to get this relevant work experience without sucking it up and taking on unpaid work.

Due to the competitive jobs market and harsh economic climate, many young people feel forced to take unpaid internships to gain experience in the elusive industry of their choice. Last year, a YouGov survey showed that the take-up of unpaid internships may have even grown tenfold in the last two decades.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the internships I have endured weren’t beneficial, but I am very lucky. I have a very understanding group of friends and family that have helped me survive through these, shall we say, meagre times. I am well aware of the fact that not everyone can afford the luxury of picking the industry they wish to work in and instead are forced to take the first job opportunity that comes along, sometimes even at the expense of their education.

I believe that there should be laws put in place to ban unpaid internships, thereby leveling the playing field for all job seekers. Internships should be within the reach of all young people who want to enrich their CVs and gain that first foothold in the industry they aspire to work in.

The national minimum wage is £6.19 and the London living wage is £8.55. Companies should consider this when investing in the future generation that will ultimately lead the economy out of the poor situation that it is currently in.

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VALENTINA ETAGHENE
NO

I think you sound pretty ungrateful and unappreciative of an opportunity, if your mind set is based on whether it was paid or not.

I have participated in countless internships and work experience placements in my time and I have been fortunate enough to work for some of the biggest brands and companies in London today. Yet I have enjoyed all of them paid or unpaid! At one stage I had to work seven days a week, working five days unpaid and part time on the weekends. Interning is a great way to get your foot in the door!

As an intern you will be in the presence of influential people making the right contacts that could potentially take you onto the next stage of your career. Money shouldn’t even come into the equation. It’s about the overall experience not whether your expenses are covered or whether they could provide you with a bit of cash. And no, you are not being exploited or taken advantage of so get that out of your mind.

You are not in the position to demand or expect money, when you clearly haven’t accomplished anything. Everyone has a degree these days, but what sets you apart from the person on your left? That’s right - a good old unpaid internship!

Those who have previously taken unpaid internships clearly want to succeed in life. I have the utmost respect for them because they are open minded and positive about their future. In life you never know where an opportunity could take you; it’s up to you to prove yourself.

I understand that youth unemployment is high and the economy is bad, but let’s be realistic - everyone has to suck it up and pay their dues.

Even directors and CEOs of large corporate firms have mentioned that in the past that they had to work for free.

If your only concern is about getting paid, go and get a part time job in one of the supermarkets to support yourself. Young people love to complain about the lack of opportunities they have, but if someone is giving you a chance to do your dream job, your main focus should be on how you are going to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

I say stop complaining and get on with it!

The 'Head to Head' column is by the London 360 reporters. To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to communitychannel.org/london360 WE ARE LONDON!

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