Random Scribbles: More on working for free

[Random Scribbles are my occasional posts of half-formed thoughts, half-baked ideas, and off-the-cuff observations.]

Yesterday, the radio program Marketplace contributed to the ongoing discussion about the advisability of working for free.

As I have said before, working for free–whether as a volunteer or as an unpaid intern–is problematic for a number of reasons. Now here is another one.  The Marketplace piece cited research that suggests that “interns who get paid are almost twice as likely as their unpaid counterparts to get a job offer when they graduate.” [emphasis added]

Clearly, there is a correlation between an employer’s willingness to pay and how much the employer values the intern. This reinforces my point that if you submit to doing a job for free, then you convey the message that you are not worth the money.

Yes, I understand that internships are supposed to provide educational value to the student, under law and under agreements between the educational institution and the employer.  But once the intern is on the job, there appears to be little to prevent the employer using them in whatever way they see fit, especially if the intern is denied the courtesy of some form of compensation. Adding insult to injury, it costs the intern to do this.

“It’s worse than working for free,” says a source interviewed in the Marketplace piece. “They’re actually paying to work.”

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