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Thanks, but no thanks! Young people fighting against precarious internships

4 May 2011

Today’s post is contributed by the European Youth Forum. The Forum has created a survey on internship experiences in Europe.

When you want something very much, you are ready and even willing to make sacrifices, hoping that in the end your efforts will pay off. Such an approach to life is generally accepted in society – you have to work hard to achieve something.  However, how much should a young person be ready to give up in order to earn a living?

For young graduates, entering the labour market nowadays is not an easy task. The transition from education to employment is long, marked with little stability, low income and tasks that rarely correspond to acquired knowledge and skills. Postgraduate internships are a typical example. This practice is spreading in many countries, and is often used by industries with very healthy profit margins. Young people are queuing up and competing for 3-month unpaid internships, usually with no prospects of a permanent contract. And after one internship there will have to be another and then another. For many young people this will a be a sacrifice leading to nowhere, not serving as a stepping stone and not offering them a dream job. Despite adding a line or two to a CV, postgraduate precarious internships are not a solution. Thanks, but no thanks!

Why do we in the European Youth Forum care? Because our members live this precarious reality. The Forum is an independent, democratic, youth-led platform made up of 98 National Youth Councils and international youth NGOs from across Europe that works to empower young people to participate actively in society to improve their own lives, by representing and advocating for their needs and interests and those of their organisations. Youth employment is one of the strategic priorities of European Youth Forum, and our actions show a good example of how young people can mobilise to fight trends and developments that they do not find acceptable. The European Youth Forum`s work on internships is based on its Opinion Paper on Internships.

Proving with numbers! The European Youth Forum recognises the urgent need to properly identify the scope of the problem. At the moment internships are rarely included in statistics, because interns no longer have student status and are not yet considered employees. In order to gather such data, the European Youth Forum has created a survey on internship experiences in Europe. This data will provide a better representation of the real situation of internships regarding access to internships, mentoring, remuneration and job opportunities. Across Europe, it will help to advocate for a more beneficial internship experience, a smoother transition from education to employment for young people, and is likely to further confirm the need for a European Quality Charter on Internships that will establish quality guidelines for internships across Europe. Please help us spread this survey, by sending the link to your friends, contacts and fellow interns!

 Showing the reality! In 2010 the European Youth Forum made a short film, “Internview”, as part of its on-going advocacy work on internships. The purpose of the video is to take a look at the lives of the interns themselves, to go beyond the policy and to see how interns and former interns feel about the internship system.

Raising awareness! The European Youth Forum does not only address external actors but encourages its Member Organisations to address youth employment matters (and internships as part of it) more actively. One such initiative, the Youth Employment Action, was established in 2009 by a transnational consortium of European Youth Forum Member Organisations. It aims to improve the situation of young people by providing practical training and projects at local and European levels, exchanging best practices, and providing information, resources and lobbying for constructive action to be taken to ensure adequate and fair employment opportunities for young people in Europe. By providing this information to young jobseekers and workers, and through lobbying on their behalf, we hope to improve the position of young people in the labour market and work for economic growth and sustainability in the future.

Clearly precarious internships are not a sustainable solution for the autonomy and future of young people. They can serve as a temporary solution – but accepting such offers only aggravates negative trends. The European Youth Forum believes that more efforts are needed from relevant stakeholders to improve the situation of young people in the labour market. Youth organisations try to lead by example and hereby invite others to join in this work. If not more, could you at least take a few minutes to fill in and spread the survey?

Useful links

OECD Forum 2011: Getting back to work

Off to a good start? Jobs for youth OECD study

Cooking, Caring and Volunteering: Unpaid Work Around the World OECD Social,Employment and Migration Working Paper

OECD work on boosting jobs and skills

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