Unpaid internships

“Unpaid internships must be banned once and for all. They are a prime example of inequality, providing opportunities only to those who have the financial means and shutting everyone else out." 

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No, these aren’t my words, but I’m jealous of them. These words were pronounced by Zuzana Vaneckova from the European Youth Forum, and are part of a formal complaint against the Belgian state. Yes, you may want to read that phrase again… In May, a press release was published with a very clear message: stop the unpaid internships (and especially in Belgium). If this complaint will be accepted, Belgium will have to defend itself at the European Committee of Social Rights. Why the focus on my country? Because 82% of internships in Belgium are unpaid, according to the EYF, high above the European average of 59%. And that’s a problem, especially when it concerns internships after graduation.

At this moment, Belgium has no clear legal framework for unpaid internships after graduation, said Ellen Froeyman, advisor at the legal knowledge centre of SD Worx, in April 2017 to Apache. But the demand is big, and not only at companies. Only in Brussels, BINGO (Brussels Interns NGO) estimates that over half of the 8.000 interns at the European Institutions, is unpaid. In the documentary Colours of Unpaid Youth, Nikolay comments that in his four years in Brussels, he did over 12 internships. All unpaid.

Belgium has currently two legal forms of paid internships: an IBO (Individuele BeroepsOpleiding, which translates to Individual Professional Education), where a productivity fee is being paid, and a BIO (BeroepsInlevingsOvereenkomst, which translates to a Contract of Professional Immersion), wherein the intern is paid about €750 a month. Unfortunately, both forms aren’t always applied. According to Ellen Froeyman, an unpaid internship, notwithstanding the lack of legislation, isn’t strictly forbidden either. A lot of young people will accept it, lacking better offers (Belgium still has a youth unemployment of +-20%) or because they are being forced during contract negotiations. The Flemish Youth Council launched an enquiry earlier this year regarding this topic, of which the results will be published in June.

Quite some material for a debate, it seems to me. Just try it, as a young professional, being independent with an unpaid internship. Pay the rent. Including heathing-water-electricity and don’t forget the internet. Save some money. Take the bus/train/metro to your job, or invest in a car to get there. You’d have to get a second job or work during the weekend to be able to afford your internship, and I know some people who actually do this. Or ask your parents to finance your internship, after they already paid for your education.

Should it really be like this?

I think we urgently need to reconsider about unpaid internships after graduation.

Note: this blogpost is a translation of http://www.jsteurs.be/gezocht-gratis-stagiair 

 

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