Andrew Ross writes:
The most widespread trend in the world of working for nothing, however, is the explosion of white-collar and no-collar interning. Not only is interning the fastest-growing job category, it is also fashionable, with Kanye West signed on at the Gap and Lady Gaga in line to be taught about millinery by Philip Treacy. In Intern Nation, Ross Perlin, a survivor of serial internships on three continents, describes the lengths to which graduates must go to secure an unpaid intern position (often the first of many) that might help them build a CV or get a foot in the door. An auction market has even sprung up to sell these positions to the highest bidder. A Versace internship fetched $5000 at auction, temporary blogging rights at the Huffington Post went for $13,000, and someone paid $42,500 for a one-week stint at Vogue.
At one Californian outfit, Dream Careers, 2000 internships all over the world are sold annually. You can buy an eight-week summer position for $8000 (a placement in London will set you back $9500). The educational value of these gigs, whether organised by an operation like Dream Careers or a university careers centre, is notoriously slight. The work is usually menial; itís rare for interns to receive any structured training. The biggest beneficiary is, of course, the employer. On Perlinís estimate, corporate America enjoys a $2 billion annual subsidy from unpaid internships. He also confirms that a large number of full-time jobs have been converted into internships, while formerly paid internships have morphed into unpaid ones. An estimated 37 per cent of internships in this country are now unpaid or below the minimum wage; the figure is 50 per cent in the US.
(LRB 19 May 2011)
Verso | Paperback
258 pp. |ISBN: