Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

48% of young people have undertaken unpaid internships in the UK

Young people are more likely to work as an intern unpaid than receive a wage, reports a survey by Prospects.

The graduate careers expert asked nearly 9,000 16 to 25 year olds about the types of work they had undertaken1. While 48% had undertaken an unpaid internship, just 17% had been paid for their work experience. 

People living in Northern Ireland were the most likely to have worked unpaid (59%) as well as those in Wales and the South West (both 52%). People least likely to work unpaid were in the North East (42%).

Thirty one per cent of respondents said they were considering starting an internship in the next 12 months. 

When choosing an internship, the most important factor for half of respondents was for it to be related to their career aspirations. The most important factor for a quarter of respondents was to get some experience for their CV. Payment was the third most important decision-making factor;  a tenth of respondents said that the most important factor when choosing an internship is if it is paid.

The findings by Prospects supports data by Brussels Interns NGO (BIngo) that estimates that more than half of internships in Europe are unpaid and almost 30% of interns don’t believe their unpaid experience was useful in finding a permanent job. 

Jayne Rowley, Chief Executive at Prospects said:

“While unpaid internships are a feature of the student jobs market in the UK, they are not legal and companies should not offer them. An intern is entitled to be paid if they are a worker and no exclusions to the national minimum wage apply. Graduates should not feel that working unpaid is a necessity for their career. If a job is worth doing, it is worth paying for.”