Un- and underpaid internships
Sure, you can 'work'. Just don't expect a job at the end of it
The Labour party has yet to pass judgment, but for many hard-working people the immediate reaction to the story of Cait Reilly, the 22-year-old geology graduate compelled to sweep floors for nothing at Poundland, must have been: where can I get one? References, obviously, essential.
Most domestic employers would not, I think, insist on geology – a Russell Group geography degree would do just as well – but let's not be picky. It would be a pleasure to have any pleasant, highly educated, preferably strong, young girl to assist with tidying and housework, knowing this will progress her career as choreographed by the government's "sector-based work academy".
Frustratingly for those of us hoping to mentor the young in this way, the free geology graduates are only being distributed at this time to larger, commercial partners such as Tesco and, of course, Poundland, where Ms Reilly was ordered to fulfil an unskilled placement – ie, one which might have been filled by a less-qualified peer, a process the Department for Work and Pensions has defended as preferable to "leaving people at home doing nothing".
Now that Ms Reilly is hoping to bring her case for "forced labour" to court, there may be an opportunity for the department to justify its moral spin on supporting the indigent, one reminiscent of the bracing, Salvation Army approach Orwell described in Down and Out in Paris and London. It was the hostel officers' habit, he reported, to enforce an early night, then rouse the tramps, pointlessly, at seven, "shaking those who did not get up at once".
AA Gill is scathing in the Sunday Times Magazine today about how the well connected middle classes use the "patronage loop" to get their children, and those of their friends and contacts, jobs in journalism, television and publishing.
Gill writes: "The Job is arranged through an elaborate old-boys’ network of work experience and internship that has little to do with academic success. It’s unpaid, or barely paid, and getting your children into the right niches is as competitive and rigorous as it was getting them into the right nursery. Just another step in the relentless game of middle-class one-upmanship.
"The names of the runners on film sets or the assistants in TV companies read like the sons and daughters of a Who’s Who in the arts world. Only the very affluent urban middle class can afford to support children in jobs that don’t pay a living wage for years at a time.
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