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Internship or Indenture?

Research Brief - Edition 2

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Summary

This brief analyses the latest higher education data and government wage statistics to examine the number of unpaid graduate interns in the UK and the cost to an individual of doing an unpaid internship. It also includes newly published Ipsos Mori polling on attitudes to unpaid internships.

Key findings

  • 31% of university graduates working as interns are doing so for no pay. It estimates that there are at least 21,000 unpaid interns working in the UK at any one time.
  • A six month unpaid internship will cost a single person living in London a minimum of £5,556 (£926 a month), and £4,728 (£788 a month), in Manchester, excluding transport costs.
  • 70% of people aged 16-75 in England agree unpaid internships ‘are unfair because only people from wealthy families are likely to be able to work for a significant period without pay.’

Recommendations

  • All internships longer than one month should be paid at least the national minimum of £6.50 per hour, and preferably the National Living Wage of £7.85 (or London Living Wage – £9.15 – in London).
  • Internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than being filled informally.
  • Recruitment processes should be fair, transparent and based on merit

Policy impact

In April 2015, the research was cited by Labour leader Ed Miliband when he pledged to end long term unpaid internships. See coverage from the BBC, Evening Standard, City AM, Reuters and the New Statesman.