Unpaid internships and the hypocrisy of capitalismNovember 18, 2014
According to research conducted by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity based in the UK, almost a third of University graduate interns are being forced to work without pay, as a means of ‘getting their foot in the door’ of their respective careers. Recent figures, released by the Sutton Trust, indicate that of the 70,000 interns in the UK, as many as 15,000 of them do not receive a salary!
The research also established that on top of the fact many interns are expected to work without a salary, outgoing costs can often render many potential interns incapable of pursuing a career. For an unpaid intern outside of London, monthly living costs (excluding transportation) can be as high as £788 per month, while monthly living costs within the Greater London area can reach a staggering £926 a month!
When one takes into account the fact that in many vocations; particularly journalism, politics, law etc. – internships are a necessary prerequisite for establishing a career in particularly competitive fields, this figure exposes the myth of social mobility under capitalism in its utmost transparency. Clearly, without satisfactory financial backing, this ultimately excludes people from less privileged backgrounds from particular areas of employment.
This recent research reveals the neo-liberal, capitalist machine as the mass of hypocrisies and contradictions it indubitably embodies. We are constantly told by the likes of Cameron and his henchmen, that through good old fashioned hard work and perseverance anyone can be a success. According to the rhetoric of the elite, and its fetishisation of the individual, we live in a meritocratic society, where the only restriction we face is our own individual limitations. This would be almost laughable, if it was not so flagrantly hypocritical.
Never before have the lies and hypocrisy of the bourgeois in relation to the myth of the “self-made man” been so glaring. The cost of living for the average worker has skyrocketed, and faced with ever decreasing job prospects, many working people are forced into low paid, part time work as a means of begetting even the most sub-satisfactory wage. Since the onset of economic crisis we have seen a qualitative change in society – certainly not for the better. With the rise of zero hour contracts, and more and more people being forced to rely on food banks to survive, the idea (preponed by Tony Blair) that ‘we’re all middle class now’ is exposed as a fallacy.
Additionally, we live in a society with an inherently un-meritocratic education system, where children from more privileged backgrounds are given access to a much higher standard of education than the majority. The elitist nature of academic institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge is not just a historic reality confined to the pages of Brideshead Revisited, with recent government statistics indicating that one in twenty students from private schools went on to study at Oxford or Cambridge in 2011, in juxtaposition to a mere one in one hundred from state schools.
All of this clearly has a detrimental effect on people’s access to particular areas of employment. Without the right financial backing, and the restricted access to an elitist education system, internships are becoming increasingly unrealistic for many. Dr. Lee Elliot Major, director of development and policy at the Sutton Trust, further accentuated this point when he said “Unpaid internships are increasingly the gateway to a job in the most competitive professions. But, as today’s research shows, the cost of taking on an internship without pay is beyond the means of the vast majority of individuals’. The report conducted by the Sutton Trust called for interns employed for longer than one month to be paid the national minimum wage, which currently stands at £6.50 an hour, although a living wage would be much more desirable.
To conclude, the figures speak for themselves – with 31% of interns in the UK receiving no financial support, opportunities for working class people are being increasingly confined. This issue is not in isolation. The overwhelming majority of people have seen only negative changes to living standards since the advent of the capitalist crisis, in spite of the constant lies of ‘economic growth’ and ‘falling unemployment’ Cameron and Osborne have constantly tried to spoon feed us.
Elitism will continue to pervade British society, and on a larger scale the entire world, so long as global capitalism maintains its supremacy. It is not, and never will be, in the interests of the bourgeoisie to allow the proletariat access to their education system, or to their professions, or to allow them to access the fruits of their own labour. ‘Social mobility’ is one of the great lies of our age, and as more and more people are pushed below the breadline, how can anyone say otherwise? The only way in which humanity can really achieve an egalitarian society is by struggling for the destruction of the capitalist system and supplanting it with a socialist society. The struggle for socialism is the struggle for humanity, and we must do our utmost to ensure we achieve it.
Workers of the world unite!
by Jack Ashworth, Manchester Marxists