阅读与作文(英语初中版) 2021年4期

Young workers have borne the brunt of economic hardship in the labour market since the Great Recession.

The most recent 2014 unemployment rates for under-25s in Europe and the U.S. shows a whopping 54% unemployment rate for those under 25 in Spain, 43% in Italy, nearly 24% in France, 18% in the UK and 12% in the U.S.

Though these figures have in some cases improved in the last few years, persistent high unemployment has led more and more new graduates to internships as a way to get a foot in the door at companies around the globe. And in some cases, long-term internships both during and after university have become the main way to get into the workforce as a young professional. But, more concerning to some is that too many young people are moving from one internship to the next, especially in Europe. They dont secure a regular full-time job—and sometimes arent paid adequately—for years.

Even in a country like France, where what the French call stages have been a common hurdle to accessing the job market for decades, the number of internships shot up from 600,000 in 2006 to 1.6 million in 2012, according to French government statistics.

Working for Free

What is even more worrying for young workers is that this job experience is often pro bono: a 2013 EU report found that 59% of 18- to 35-year-olds across 27 EU member states hadnt received any financial compensation for their most recent internship.

The U.S. has also seen a rise in unpaid internships over the past decade, according to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation. He estimates up to half of these are unpaid, though unlike in Europe many are part of university curricula or organised summer programmes for those still in the midst of their studies. However, critics contend that theres almost no way to really know how big the issue is in the U.S. And according to a YouGov 2014 poll, interns in the UK dont fare much better than their U.S. counterparts. Some 26% of UK companies pay either nothing or only expenses for interns, typically about £500 ($744).

Taking Advantage

Increasingly, young people in both the U.S. and across Europe are feeling frustrated with the status quo.

Christina Isnardi did four unpaid internships for academic credit while a student at New York University. In one instance, she paid $1,200 to NYU to intern in the camera department on a production set. In reality she was little more than a gofer.

“I definitely didnt need a college degree to do it; an 8-year-old could have,” she said.

Perlins research on internships found that more than 75% of university students in the U.S. did at least one internship during their schooling. And anecdotally, there are increasing reports of recent graduates taking on similar internships after commencement, a practice that is commonplace in Europe, not just for a first job experience, but often several internships in a row, well past graduation.

Nuno Loureiros experience exemplifies this. He left Portugal for Brussels in 2008 with a degree in International Relations. He landed an unpaid internship at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the EU, and on one occasion even replaced the official representative in negotiations with other member states.

“In retrospect, I think I should have been paid, but at the time I did it willingly because it was experience,” he said. He went on to do six more internships over three years, only one of which was paid. “Companies and NGOs are definitely taking advantage of this job market, which is completely saturated with highly-qualified and highly motivated young people,” he said.

Towards Quality Internships

Advocacy groups have successfully raised public awareness about the plight of interns in both North America and Europe. In 2014, more than 10 such groups formed the International Coalition for Fair Internships to further heighten the visibility of the actions of individual associations in different countries.

Intense grassroots action in France culminated in the passage of a ground-breaking law in 2014 to improve conditions for the countrys hundreds of thousands of stagiaires. It includes measures like setting a limit of six months on the majority of internships and raising the monthly indemnity from around 400 euros ($456) per month to just over 500 euros ($570).

The European Union has also moved to address the increase in questionable internships across Europe by adopting a Quality Framework on Traineeships in March 2014. The framework calls on EU member states to ensure their national laws guarantee internships are “high-quality work experience under safe and fair conditions”. The aim is to improve internship transparency and quality through such measures as requiring internships be based on a written agreement covering learning content and working conditions.

Whats Next?

Young people are also pushing back. Isnardi, the NYU student, who now works at a labour and employment law firm, successfully petitioned NYU in 2014 to remove unpaid internships that dont comply with U.S. Department of Labor guidelines from its career-services site. She is also currently lobbying members of Congress to extend civil rights protections to unpaid interns.

Loureiro founded the Brussels Interns NGO (B!ngo) to promote quality internships. “Civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to change the situation,” he said.

Pierre-Julien Bosser, who did four internships over two years, founded InternsGoPro with two other former interns to encourage companies to offer meaningful paid internships by providing certifications for those that do.

“Companies now know that unpaid internships equal bad press, so what they do is they pay them a little, say, 200 euros ($228) a month, and in the end the young people suffer from the same economic insecurity,” he said.

Perlin said in an email that the rise of the intern economy wont be halted, let alone reversed, without something bigger than a better economy. “The only thing that will make a real difference is a major cultural shift, perhaps just starting, that restores the link between a hard days work and a fair wage, including for young people,” he said.