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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:21 AM

Opportunity Costs: The True Price of Internships


from Dissent magazine:


Opportunity Costs: The True Price of Internships
By Madeleine Schwartz - Winter 2013


Every summer, thousands of interns descend on New York City in order to work for nothing. They flow into empty dorm rooms or onto friends’ sofas to sleep, burrow unnoticed into illegal sublets and surf couches longterm. At work, they occupy desks and offices recently vacated by laid-offs. They file papers, get coffee, and try to make themselves noticed, but not too much so.

No one knows how many of these interns there are, partly because much of their unsalaried work is illegal and therefore covert. Interns as a whole are having a cultural moment: the intern appears on television and in gossip magazines; there are celebrity interns and luxury internships for sale. MTV’s reality show The Hills took as its premise that young, beach-blond Angelenos were sick of tanning by the ocean—they wanted internships instead. Kanye West, whose earnings as of May 2012 were $35 million a year, recently completed an internship at the Italian luxury fashion house of Fendi. But the intern’s overall place in the workforce is largely unclear. Legally obscure and professionally meek, interns are difficult to classify because their position requires invisibility. One of the intern’s great skills is not to cause a fuss, not to raise any trouble.

Even though many work far more than the average workweek (Xuedan Wang, an unpaid intern who sued the Hearst Corporation last spring, claimed that she worked up to fifty-five hours a week at Harper’s Bazaar), most will never even think to ask for compensation for their time. (Although profit-making companies provide the majority of paid internships, the distribution of unpaid internships is roughly equal between for-profit and nonprofit organizations.) Compliant, silent and mostly female, these interns have become the happy housewives of the working world.

The intern’s obscurity and uncertainty characterize a labor force that has grown more contingent, relying on part-time, unstable, and insecure work. Interns will work for months without pay, benefits, or basic workplace protection. It’s not unheard of for students with advanced degrees to take on internships, and, on the opposite end of the educational spectrum, for companies to characterize their workers as interns in order to not to compensate them. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics maker, took on fourteen-year-old students as “interns” to build the iPhone 5. The explosion of internships, however, is not just a question of changing economic circumstance. In their submissiveness and tractability, their willingness to perform work for free, interns also illustrate the flexibility and obedience demanded by contingency. .........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/opportunity-costs-the-true-price-of-internships



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Reply Opportunity Costs: The True Price of Internships (Original post)
marmar Feb 2013 OP
liberal N proud Feb 2013 #1
valerief Feb 2013 #2
Laelth Feb 2013 #3

Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:24 AM

1. Internships are the latest tool for corporations to rip off the workforce

Make people who are already debt burdened to slave for nothing and get nothing in return but the internship listed on their resume. It is criminal.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 11:28 AM

2. Internships--work for people who apparently don't have to work for a living. nt

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 10, 2013, 12:03 PM

3. k&r for labor. n/t

-Laelth

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