On Thursday, 4/8/2011,Â www.slaves.ie went live, thanks to the nice design work of James from Forbairt.ie. The idea to bring some attention to the increasing numbers of requests for unpaid interns in Ireland. Here are my thoughts on this project.
Myself, Michele & James, over an online discussion thought it would be a good idea to have a website to bring attention to the increasing trend of companies requesting people to do, what seems on paper at least, a job you would expect someone of experience/skill to perform. These jobs are often pitched as an opportunity to get experience or a start in an industry, but the employer is not willing to pay these people for their time.
Some employers even say that they’ve hired many people after these types of intern postions. But this carrot dangling really doesn’t justify someone receiving at least â‚¬8.65 per hour, the current minimum wage in Ireland. If you perform a task, that potentially someone else is paying for, i.e. a client of your employer , and you just get ‘experience’, there does seem to be some level of exploitation here.
Collins Dictionary, via thefreedictionary.com, defines the word slave as
slave [sleÉªv] n
1. (Law) a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property
2. (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) a person who is forced to work for another against his will
3. a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence a slave to television
4. (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) a person who works in harsh conditions for low pay
5. (Engineering / Mechanical Engineering)
a. a device that is controlled by or that duplicates the action of another similar device (the master device)
b. (as modifier) slave cylinder
Because of #4 I feel that the word slave is an appropriate word to use. The harsh condition being the fact that you don’t receive any wages for the work performed.
There has been some debate over the last 3 days about this topic, it even trended on twitter at one stage. It’s great to see that in some way slaves.ie has aided this debate. Some people were offended by word slave, to that I am sorry, that was not the intention. Others seem to have used it to pull some punches at companies, this was also not the intention of the website.
With the rate of Irish unemployment hitting 14%, there are lots of capable people out there looking for work. It’s sad to see that people feel like they have to take these positions, as that’s what it’s now come down to.
Recently the Irish government launched an initiative to get people on the dole, into jobs. JobBridge allows employers to advertise these internship positions. The employers only have to pay their workers â‚¬50 per week, but they will continue to receive their unemployment benefit. People seem to be happy to apply for these positions, and I think it can be a win-win situation for both the intern and the employer. Where things could get dodgy is when these intern positions should in fact be full time positions. JobBridge define an internship as :
The aim of the National Internship Scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills.
I hope they don’t have too hard of a time policing these jobs. JobBridge is a great idea, and I would love to see it succeed.
Internships are great
Personally I’ve only good things to say about my experience with internships. But they were all paid, I was able to learn and earn at the same time. It showed me that the employer valued an intern enough to give them a wage. I was given responsibility, but I was also given the opportunity to learn something new. If I wasn’t paid I don’t think I would have been able to do one for 5 months while living in Germany for example.
I do wonder about these employers who don’t offer wages in return for work, I mean we all have to survive, pay rent, bills and eat every now and again. Expecting someone to work for free won’t help them in any of these tasks. Some even say they are creating jobs, but without an employers PRSI contribution I don’t think this qualifies as ‘a job’.