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Unpaid Internships for Graduates Now the New Norm?

Huffington Post

Internships have long been a part of building a career trajectory and most students have resigned themselves to the fact that internships will be unpaid. Many college students spend summers interning at various places, hoping to gain some hands-on experience, a few recommendations and some sense of what they would like to do after graduation. However, the unpaid internship is now creeping into life after graduation.[...]

"It's not unusual for young people to have higher unemployment rates than the general population," notes Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at Demos, a public policy organization based in New York. "What is unusual," she added, "is how long the job market is taking to recover."

Reutschlin added that the high unemployment that young people are experiencing right now is cyclical; however, that combined with the length of the recession has impacted the nature of jobs available. "The nature of the employment relationship has changed." She noted that a generation ago, firms expected to hire young people and provide them full-time jobs with training, and the focus was on long-term investment in the employee. That has now shifted to part-time, temporary work, which includes internships.

Eisenbrey agrees. "Businesses know that they are in a new position of power and their own expectations have changed. I think it's a fact that a lot of these businesses expect to hire people and not have to pay them."

Recent lawsuits against large corporations are putting employers on alert. After interns came out victorious against Fox Searchlight Pictures for their work in the production ofBlack Swancomplaints against Condé Nast, Warner Music and Gawker Media were brought. And they are only a few in the growing number of complaints against employers. ProPublica is maintaining a database that currently lists 15 cases in progress, including the three mentioned. There is also a Fair Pay Campaign urging the White House to pay its interns and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Foundation has now implemented a paid internship program after being criticized for soliciting an unpaid intern.