Ben Lyons had an interesting post on Lib Dem Voice recently where he argued that the minimum wage legislation should be amended to recognise interns as short-term employees.
I have read numerous articles over the years about this issue (and indeed blogged about it myself in the past) and the more I read, the more unfair it seems. There are certain fields of work such as in the media or working as a parliamentary researcher where it is pretty standard for people to offer their services for free for a number of months. On the surface it might seem fair enough, after all shouldn't people be willing to show their dedication by volunteering for a short period of time? But what has started to happen is that certain professions are becoming closed to people who cannot afford to have their living costs paid for or subsidised by reasonably well off parents. I know that if I had decided to go into one of these professions straight after graduating 15 years ago it would have been very difficult/impossible for me to get by on no salary.
At the same time I hear the counter argument that without the internship system, some of these positions would not exist in the first place as the employers are not in a position to pay for them.
I have to say that the more I have thought about it though, the more I am more inclined to agree with the argument that someone putting in a reasonable days work should be paid a fair rate for it. If some of the jobs would not exist without being subsidised through this system then maybe that tells its own story. I certainly think that the current situation is contributing to the decline in social mobility we have seen in recent years.
One idea that Charlotte Gore suggested on a previous thread is that those working as interns should be able to claim benefits. After all, they are not being paid and an internship is a better route to employment than some of the alternatives.
What do you think?