The European Commission is Committed to Banning Unpaid Internships

Politics - January 30, 2024

Changing the Often Unclear Practice Regarding Internships Could Be a Game Changer for Young Workers

In recent years, the issue of unpaid internships has become increasingly debated globally. Many organizations and young workers have raised concerns about the widespread practice of unpaid internships, highlighting the economic disadvantages this practice entails for young people seeking professional experience. In a significant turn of events, the European Commission recently announced its intention to ban unpaid internships, marking an important step forward in ensuring fairness and justice in the European labour market. Unpaid internships have become a common reality in many companies, particularly in the start-up sector, non-profit organizations and even in established companies. Young professionals often find themselves in the difficult position of having to accept an internship without pay to gain the necessary experience, thus helping to perpetuate a cycle of exploitation in the world of work.

One of the key arguments against unpaid internships is that they limit access to career opportunities for young people from less affluent families. Those who cannot afford to work without pay are often excluded from meaningful professional experiences, creating an economic disparity in skill growth and job opportunities. The European Commission has recognized the need to address this issue and has announced its commitment to ban unpaid internships. The main objective of this initiative is to promote equality of opportunities in the labour market and ensure that young workers are adequately compensated for their contributions to organizations.

One of the most important aspects of this initiative is the formal recognition of the value of the interns’ work. The European Commission has highlighted that internships represent an opportunity for young people to acquire significant professional skills and experience and that this contribution should be fairly compensated. The ban on unpaid internships will certainly have a significant impact on how organizations manage their internship programs. Companies will be encouraged to review their compensation policies to ensure that interns receive fair compensation for their work. This could also lead to greater competition between companies to attract the best seasonal talent. On the other hand, some concerns may arise regarding the ability of organizations, particularly smaller or nonprofit ones, to financially support paid internships. The European Commission will need to work closely with stakeholders to develop transition policies and measures that take into account the needs of different organisations.

The ban on unpaid internships announced by the European Commission is an important step towards a fairer and more inclusive labour market. This initiative recognizes the value of interns’ contributions and aims to ensure that they are adequately compensated for their efforts. While there are challenges to face in the transition to paid internships, the goal of promoting equality of opportunity and breaking the cycle of exploitation in the world of work is a cause that certainly deserves everyone’s support. The European Commission now has the opportunity to lead change and inspire other regions of the world to follow its example in adopting policies that promote fairness and respect for the rights of young workers.

The proposal of the MEPs, for the next European elections in June, took into account two different types of internships: those that take place after completing the studies and curricular ones. In the first case, interns must receive remuneration in line with the provisions of the European Union directive on minimum wages and must also be guaranteed access to social protection and pension rights. In the second case, however, the interns will be reimbursed for the costs incurred to carry out the work activity (food, accommodation, transport). The European Commission will therefore now present the draft – writes the Guardian, a British newspaper – before the European elections of 6-9 June.

In Italy, this issue has long been much felt and debated, and over the years there have been several actions aimed at curbing the phenomenon of unpaid internships.

Certainly a ban or a clear indication from the European Union would help many young people in their already difficult approach to the world of work.