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Growth in unpaid full-time internships raises fears for social mobility

Category: In the News
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Rob Davies and Elena Creci cited Sutton Trust research in a Guardian news feature on internships

Wanted: an undergraduate to take a full-time position with a major international fashion retailer. The job will last for a year. The pay? Zero.

This fantastic opportunity, doubtless available only to those with independent means, wealthy parents and access to free accommodation, was advertised this week by US-based fashion chain Urban Outfitters.


The Sutton Trust, a charity that researches policy to improve social mobility, warned that these advertised roles are likely to be the tip of the iceberg because many positions are offered on an informal basis, often through well-connected family members.

“Unless you have private means, or have access to family accommodation, you simply have no chance of taking up an unpaid internship,” said its director of research Conor Ryan.


The Sutton Trust’s Ryan suggested that an unpaid role could cost someone who does not live in London about £1,000 per month.

“If you’re closing off internships by pricing young people out of them, you’re seriously harming social mobility and reinforcing the nature of those who get into top jobs across the professions,” he said.

He said interns should ideally be paid the living wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation – £8.45 per hour or £9.75 in London.

At the very least, he said, they should receive the national minimum wage of £7.05 for under-25s and £7.50 for older workers.

Read the full web version of the article here. Read the Sutton Trust research brief on interns here.