I thought this article in UK’s Designweek was interesting regarding the use of unpaid internships for graduates. I don’t know how prevalent this is in other countries, but it seems to be creeping in more and more here :
Personally, I don’t think it is fair that graduates are exploited like this in any industry, though it seems more prevalent in the creative sector, even if there was some recompense for travel, food etc this would be better than giving an excuse of ‘the privilege of experience’…
I don’t think it’s unfair, I actually think how can these creative enterprises function in these times? Is there a guarantee that they are producing a product that has a genuine benefit or creates necessary economic or environmental growth? If the company is advertising an upaid internship, maybe this should ring alarm bells.
Look at other sectors, like IT and engineering. I was applying to IBM position as a software developer with a new product development focus, and I have been guaranteed a payment of $15000 a year - not much, but enough to survive in UK for the duration of internship. I haven’t got in, but that’s another story These sectors offer pay because the work they are doing is necessary in some way or another, and they are necessary for the government and society to function well.
On the other hand, look at some creative companies. They are not generating a lot of income. They may not be seen as necessary by the government or the society, no matter how important they think they are. They may not be doing any “serious” work at all. That’s why they are offering unpaid internship - they are just recruiting other people to play and have fun with their staff, to enrich their output. Being in certain creative jobs is a lot like being a member of a breakdancing troupe - you can rarely get paid for having fun. That’s life.
However, some breakdancing troupes get to perform at major events, and they get financial sponsorship, because they are very good. Same happens to creative firms.
In this economy companies seem to be going this route more often. With having bad economic times there does seem to be a surge internships being offered. I think these same positions would have just been offer to an entry level hire a few years ago. But in a lot of ways an internship with a recognizable company can really make a difference in you job hunt so at the end of the day it does not matter if they pay you or not.