As the government just announced they refuse to ban unpaid internships. My first thought went to the industry I work in, and care so much about – journalism. But why do journalists, and many other creative vocations too, have such a huge reliance on free labour?
Working for free is something that I have accepted, moved on from and honestly cherished during my short and sweet career in journalism so far. I mean, some of my best experiences and absolute fave moments have come from internships and various work placements where I didn’t get paid. And I highly doubt I would’ve been able to interview the likes of Circa Waves, the guys from Brick Lane’s Cereal Killer Café or gone to London Fashion Week off my own back…
But that doesn’t stop me questioning the ethical issues behind it. Why should I be expected to work for free?
So many people in the creative industry get asked to offer their services in return for what? Free publicity? Something to put in your portfolio? That’s all fine and dandy, but some clippings in a folder don’t pay for the electricity that runs my macbook that allows me to write for you for free.
The government blocked the attempt to ban unpaid internships, but there could be an investigation into how it actually works in a modern working environment (i.e. it doesn’t work at all).
Shelbrooke highlighted how some MPs were using unpaid placements, he said. “It sends a message to businesses across the United Kingdom that exploiting … young workers is acceptable.
If MPs are making the most of unpaid internships then it’s okay to happen elsewhere, right? Nah thanks.
I recently picked up ‘The Education Issue’ (no. 3) of Intern – a magazine for young creatives written by young creatives… That get paid for their contributions. It’s sad that this is almost miraculous. It’s got a pretty niche audience, but it’s content is so valuable for people like me. This issue included the basics like, ‘How to: Invoice’, to a feature discussing ‘Putting a price on the written word’.
Here’s hoping that more publications take a leaf from Intern‘s book and disregard unpaid labour, or for a cap to be put in place on unpaid placements to ensure they’re no longer than four weeks, as suggested by campaign group Intern Aware. But until then, I guess we’ll continue funding ourselves to get a leg-up in the industry and buying the cheapest drink in the coffee shop just to sit and use their free wifi for a whole day.