With a conference on Fair Internships, the European Parliament Youth Intergroup, the European Parliament Stagiaires Association (EPSA) and EU Interns 4 Interns launched a joint campaign to end unfair internships. The European Youth Forum welcomes the initiative and takes a strong stance on offering quality internships.
Unpaid internships are widespread in Brussels. For many however it will come as a surprise that unpaid internships are also offered in the EU Institutions, outside of the official traineeship programs. A survey undertaken by the Youth Intergroup and EPSA in 2013 showed that close to 20% of interns in the European Parliament are unpaid. The organisers of this campaign want to gain better insight into the situation of interns in the different institutions and plan to launch a new survey after the summer.
The conference focused on two specific issues: 1) many internships offered in Brussels and in the European Union in general are either unpaid or not sufficiently remunerated to allow interns to afford a decent standard of living; and 2) European institutions offer a high number of unpaid internships alongside remunerated internship programmes such as Blue Book and Schuman. The organisers brought together representatives of the European Commission, the European External Action Service, Members of Parliament as well as representatives of the private sector, the civil society and interns.
MEP Terry Reintke, co-chair of the European Parliament Youth Intergroup, said:
‘With this campaign we want to raise awareness about the issue of unpaid internships in EU institutions. We want to work side by side with the interns to ensure that the EU institutions are a role model in offering quality internships. With youth unemployment still unacceptably high throughout the EU, quality internships could provide young people the practical experience they need to enter the labour market.’
European Youth Forum Board Member Tinkara Oblak, said:
‘It is crucial that EU Institutions recognise that unpaid internships are a problem, and address the situation. Poor quality internships, which use young people’s labour but do not offer fair remuneration and quality learning experiences in exchange, are part of a broader tapestry of barriers, which are excluding young people from contributing to society and are creating a generational divide. We welcome this new campaign and call on the European Parliament to lead the way in providing good quality internships.
Raphael Ruppacher, of EPSA, said:
’In Brussels, the issue of unpaid and low paid internships has reached an extent that has become unacceptable. As a result, the labour market has become very elitist, exclusionary and overall unfair. Our ultimate goal is to abolish unpaid internships in all EU institutions and in the long run in Europe in general.
Advocacy efforts by the EPSA Subcommittee on Fair Internships have been both internal and external; examples include producing advocacy videos and preparing this conference. One of the Subcommittee’s successes so far has been the filing of a written question to the European Commission by MEP Siôn Simon on how many unpaid interns are employed in the Commission. The EC has not answered yet.’
Ingrid-Cristiana Vreja, of Interns4Interns, said:
‘Unpaid and underpaid internships promote inequality because a lot of young people simply cannot afford to work for free or for an allowance that is far from covering living costs.’