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No more unpaid internships!

Unpaid internships are keeping an entire generation of Europeans behind.

Employers are demanding that young people work for free, but who is paying the price? Unpaid internships impact young people's financial security, career prospects and mental health. They also impact our societies by exacerbating inequality. The true cost of unpaid internships is much more than all of us can afford.

By paying a fair wage to young workers, everyone wins.

Thank you! We collected 8,400 signatures to #BanUnpaidInternships 💙

One year ago, we launched a petition calling for an EU directive that ensures access to remuneration for interns in the labour market. After a year filled with determination and great support, we have collected an astounding 8,400 signatures. Thank you for all your support on this journey, together we made a significant impact. Thanks to you, the European Parliament voted in favour of banning unpaid internships.

What's next? While the petition is closing, our fight for fair and paid internships continues. That's why in June 2023, we sat down with the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, to hand him the outcome of our petition. Now it's in the hands of the European Commission to not betray young people and to put an ambitious EU Directive on the table.

In this powerful 20-minute morning coffee interview in the beautiful space of MedexMuseum in Brussels, Commissioner Schmit shares his support and deep commitment to improving the working conditions for young people.

Watch the full interview now 👇

Can you afford the cost of an unpaid internship?

Young people across Europe need access to decent jobs that will kickstart their future. But how can they do that, when they are expected to work for free?

The cost of unpaid internships is more than a few months without pay. Our report reveals that an unpaid internship could cost a young person over €1,000 a month, deepening inequalities among Europeans from different social backgrounds.

We're calling on all national and European decision-makers to recognise the cost of unpaid internships and take action to protect young workers!

Financial cost

“Without a salary, I was forced to stay with my parents, instead of starting my independent life.”

Living comes at a cost. As prices continue to rise for food, heating, travel and other basic necessities, the financial cost of taking an unpaid internship is always increasing.

Today in Europe, young people are disproportionately at risk of poverty. This situation has only been made worse by the pandemic. If young people aren’t being paid to work, then who is paying the price?

Cost to long-term opportunities

“Those who start out behind tend to stay behind”

One 6 month unpaid internship can’t hurt, right? It’s only 6 months and young people can survive for that amount of time. But what if it’s still not enough to get an entry level job? What if the only option to get more experience is to do another internship, also unpaid.

Many young people are spending significant amounts of time working for free. Not only does this have a huge impact on their financial security in the short-term, but working unpaid can also have lifelong consequences. Young people are paying for experience with their careers.

Cost to mental health

“I wasn’t being valued as a person or as a worker”

Financial hardship, instability and uncertainty about the future: unpaid internships can put a lot of pressure on young people’s mental health.

Getting stuck in a vicious cycle of unpaid work can also have long-term physiological health effects including depression, anxiety and lower self-esteem.

At a time when there has been a sharp decline in the mental health of young Europeans, alongside the rise in unemployment due to the pandemic, young people’s working conditions must be a priority.

Cost to fair societies

“There is a group of people who don’t even get through the door.”

Accepting an offer to work unpaid for 3-6 months is not something everyone can do. Living without an income often requires financial support from family or personal savings. So what happens when you don’t have any financial support?

Unpaid internships are not only causing financial instability, they are also worsening inequality. Those who simply can’t afford to not be paid, are losing out.

Young people who already face bigger challenges and obstacles, such as those from marginalised groups, are once again being excluded.

The Internship checklist

What makes a good quality internship?

To uphold young people's rights as workers, all good quality internships and traineeships should fulfil the following criteria:

● Use of a written contract

● Remuneration at least at the level of the national minimum wage and above the national poverty threshold, with overtime additionally compensated

Get inspired by reading the Youth Forum's Quality Charter on Internships & Apprenticeships and the Youth Forum's demands.

● A limit on the length of the traineeship to a fixed number of months

● Equal access to social protection in line with other workers

● A limited number of trainees per employer

● Presence of a mentor and evaluations to discuss progress

● Transparent advertisement on the conditions and learning objectives

Want to find out what internships rights you have in your country?

High Quality or Unpaid and Unregulated? Uncovering National Internship Policies in Europe
Social and economic rights

High Quality or Unpaid and Unregulated? Uncovering National Internship Policies in Europe

Our new report has put the spotlight on internship legislation in seven European Member States, evaluating the working conditions interns have to face.

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