Martin Bright has done a couple of posts recently where he has highlighted Phillip Hammond's use of an intern and also his justification of this by claiming it would be an abuse of taxpayer's money not to use the free labour available.
Over the years I have seen this issue pop up from time to time. The main problem is that when a company to utilises free labour, the intern is effectively subsidising the company for a while. They can only do this if they have independent means and the young people who are able to tend to be from more privileged backgrounds where their parents can afford to subsidise them for a while. This seems unjust and means that people from poorer backgrounds are to an extent being shut out of certain professions (especially in say the media when internships are commonplace).
On the other hand companies I am sure would argue that they are giving a good opportunity to people that would not be available if the intern/unpaid route was not available.
I do think it is odd though that we have a minimum wage law in this country and yet we also have a way for companies to get round this and effectively pay some staff nothing at all. It seems a little inconsistent.
I have to say I do not know what the answer is to this. Banning internships is not a route I would be comfortable going down. At the same time, especially in the current economic conditions I fear that an increase in this sort of unpaid Labour is only going to be bad for social mobility.
I am interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.