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Paid internships should become the EU standard

Interns are often viewed as cheap labor – but that could soon be over. The EU Commission wants to make paid internships the standard. There should still be exceptions.

The EU Commission wants to improve the pay of interns. “Internships can be a great first work experience for young people. But they must be of good quality, with a clear learning component and they must be paid,” said EU Labor Commissioner Nicolas Schmit. The Commission presented a corresponding legislative proposal.

The law is intended to prevent interns from being exploited as cheap labor. Brussels also wants to combat the shortage of skilled workers. According to the Commission, there were more than three million interns in the EU in 2019, around half of whom were not paid. More recent data is not available, it said.

Exceptions depending on responsibility

Exceptions should be possible if there are “objective reasons” for paying interns differently than other employees. According to the information, this can be the case if the tasks of interns involve less responsibility or less work intensity.

It should also be ensured that internships do not replace or disguise regular jobs. Companies should also actively communicate how many internships they offer, how long they last and what the working conditions are like.

Trade union federation is not that enough

For the European trade union confederation ETUC, the proposed directive is not strict enough. Unpaid internships would exclude talented working-class young people from many jobs because they could not afford to work for free.

“Today's proposed policy does little to address this scandal,” said Tea Jarc of ETUC. The EU states and the European Parliament must now each find a position on the proposals and negotiate a compromise together. The planned law can then come into force.

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