Three quarters of people want to see unpaid internships that last for more than four weeks banned, a new Social Mobility Commission survey reveals.
Unite said the survey’s results reflect growing public unease over social inequality.
A survey of around 5,000 adults by the independent commission showed that three quarters would support legislation that banned unpaid internships lasting longer than a month.
The poll was released ahead of the second reading of a private member’s bill that seeks to enact such a ban.
Commission chair and former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn said, “Unpaid internships are a modern scandal which must end.
“Internships have become a route to a good professional job, but access to them tends to depend on who, not what, you know and young people from low-income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid.
“Unpaid internships are damaging for social mobility. It is time to consign them to history.”
Siobhan Endean, Unite national officer for the community, youth work and not-for-profit sectors, agreed.
She said unpaid internships are replacing entry level jobs in many professions and unfairly discriminate against people who cannot afford to work for nothing.
“People should not be expected to work for free. Unpaid internships are being used by employers to avoid paying a decent wage. This is often due to the cuts in funding to employers and the government’s failed austerity programme,” Endean said.
“In the charity, media, politics and arts sectors unpaid internships are being used to replace entry level jobs, meaning that a whole generation of young people have been locked out of pursuing careers in those areas.”
Endean said this is especially true in London where the majority of unpaid internships take place, because those who cannot afford the luxury of not worrying about sky-high rents are effectively denied the same opportunities as those who can.
“The increase in unpaid internships in recent years is a reflection of the growing inequality in our society and it is clear from the survey that the public recognise this,” Endean added.
“Structured, paid apprenticeships, internships and training schemes with a guarantee of a permanent job on completion are better for young people and are better value for employers, who will get higher quality and more motivated applicants.”