The road from serfdom

From The Economist:

AS MORE CVs glitter with university degrees and straight A-grades, companies have devised a new tiebreaker for admission to the best jobs: the internship. Careers in finance, the media, politics and other popular fields now often begin with a temporary stint lasting from a few weeks to upwards of a year. The government reckons that at any time up to 70,000 interns are toiling in Britain. Yet about a third of them are unpaid. This gives rich, London-based candidates an edge.

There are growing attempts to level the playing field by making companies pay up. On November 4th Alec Shelbrooke, a Conservative MP, is due to present a bill to grant all interns the minimum wage, as long as they are above compulsory school age and their internship is not part of a degree course. The spread of unpaid internships means that bright graduates are being leapfrogged in the labour market by richer rivals who, at university, “pissed about a bit, got a 2:2, but got the job because they had money put behind them,” he says.

Private members’ bills such as Mr Shelbrooke’s tend to fizzle out. But Damian Hinds, the employment minister, let it be known on October 30th that the government, too, was “looking at” the question of unpaid internships, which he linked to social mobility, the subject Theresa May has put at the centre of her domestic agenda…