Over half of Irish interns are unpaid

New research shows a third of interns are required to carry out the same duties as a paid employee

A new survey shows that 52% of Irish interns are unpaid, or are just covered for expenses.

Research conducted by advertising agency Chemistry also found that 28% of interns felt taken advantage of. As well as that, a third of interns said they did the same job as a paid employee, including meeting clients and delivering billed client work; or their work was confined to lesser or menial tasks and administrative duties.

The research suggest the issue arises most frequently within the creative industries of advertising, media, design and digital.

Ray Sheerin, MD of Chemistry, called on all industries to end these unfair practices:

“Our research confirms what we have long suspected: across many industries internships are practically mandatory, gruelling and most don’t result in a paid job at the end," he said. "The whole ‘internship economy’ breeds exploitation. The treatment we’re hearing about through this research and on the grapevine is highly unethical to say the least."

No choice?

Half of respondents felt they had no choice but to do an internship in order to gain employment in the industry. However, 45% of respondents are currently unemployed, and 61% weren't hired by the company they interned with.

In order to make ends meet, of those who weren't paid, 44% had to take on a part time job and 8% take out a loan to fund their internship.

95% believe that employers should be required to have better defined and fairer intern policies.

On applying for internships, Sheerin gave this advice:

“Firstly, always ask if there is a potential for employment at the end of the internship. Then ask if there is payment for your time – if not, what experience will you gain as part of the internship, and who will you learn from? Will there be opportunities to shadow people in different parts of the business, especially the area you are most interested in? And finally, be sure that the internship has a clear start and end date: and don’t extend out the internship if it isn’t really valuable for your own experience or there’s a promise of a job.”