Are Internships Exploiting Graduates?

are internships exploiting graduates?A recent report by the Sunday Business Post has shown that graduates’ salaries are the lowest they have been in the last ten years. Between 2007 and 2014 the average salary has decreased by 11.7%, dropping from €26,919 to €23,777.

Joe O’Connor, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, has said that the findings, complied by the Central Bank for their report titled ‘On the Slide: Salary Scales for New Graduates”, highlight the frustrating situation that many students are finding themselves in at the moment.

O’Connor criticised Ireland’s current “Internship Culture” and said that young people who are leaving college with good degrees expecting to be treated as an full member of the workforce are instead having to go through an internship that pays low wages.

O’Connor said that internships, coupled with high levels of youth unemployment after the recession, have created an employer friendly market that is not fair on qualified students. According to O’Connor, government backed internships such as JobBridge are damaging pay and conditions in the job market and reducing wages.

JobBridge is a scheme that provides work experience for interns for a six or nine month period for an allowance of €50 a week on top of existing social welfare entitlement. It provides up to 8,500 work experience placements, however, O’Connor feels that schemes such as this have contributed to the current ten year low in graduate pay.

According to the report findings, architecture was worst hit; with a reduction of 31% in wages, reducing the average wage from €31,500 in 2007 to just €21,448 this year.

O’Connor said that an area where there might be great opportunities now, may offer few jobs in the future due to the pace of change internationally in the jobs market. He also stated that third level education is as important now for getting a job as second level education was years ago. This has been demonstrated by the fact that 50,000 third level graduates filled the 58,000 jobs that were created in 2013.

The study also found that Arts graduate’s salaries have dropped by 19%, with a decrease from €24,445 in 2007 to €19,747 in 2014. Veterinary and medical students have also seen a drop of 11% and while researchers said that wages have also decreased in other countries including France and Britain, they have not dropped to the same extent as here in Ireland.

Author: Fiona McBennett

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