4/03/2010

Government "do good" will eliminate a lot of internships

No one is forcing these young people to do internships. They get training and experience in jobs that they very frequently love. My kids have done internships that they wouldn't have had a chance at otherwise. Raise the price to the companies that provide these internships, and you reduce the demand for interns. When a young person works in an internship for just a few months, there is usually not a lot that a company gets out of these young people. The government warns: "Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal."

With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.

Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.

Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.

The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships. . . .

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4 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Unionize them under SEIU and watch what happens. The .gov will penalize (tax) any business that fails to achieve a .gov mandated level of interns. Simple.

4/03/2010 5:30 PM  
Blogger John A said...

Alas, the Department will not be able to do much in its own front yard: Congress followed usual procedure and exempted itself from having to pay minimum wage to pages and other teen tenp workers.

4/03/2010 6:32 PM  
Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

"No one is forcing these young people to do internships."

I'm not certain that that's as true as you'd imagine. Yes, we choose to take internships, but that's because having practically no money for a few months in exchange for the connections is better than having no money indefinitely.

And to be honest, I'd take a minimum wage internship, but when a 6 week internship costs me 40 hours a week, during which I'm still paying rent, utilities, transportation costs, buying groceries, etc... having a monthly income somewhere around -$1,000 gets kinda hard to make ends meet.

You're right, though. If the labor weren't free, there'd be a lot fewer openings for it. Of course, if they don't have the money to pay an intern's salary, how on earth would they find the money to pay a proper employee's salary? And after all, why should they, when they can get the low man on the totem pole to do whatever they need for free?

Yes, I agree that increasing minimum wage hurts everybody who is at or below the new minimum wage, but unless you intend to find a way for people to get their rent, food, and other bills waived for the duration of their internships, it really feels like a new form of slavery.

4/04/2010 5:18 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear Raven Lunatic:

Thanks for the comment. Just because I am unwilling to pay an untrained intern, doesn't mean that I won't be willing to pay someone once they have received some training. The issue isn't: "if they don't have the money to pay an intern's salary, how on earth would they find the money to pay a proper employee's salary?" I have had a lot of interns work for me over the years, and they often take a few months to see if they will work out. For these young people, the cost of training about equals any benefit one gets from having them around. If they were a net benefit, companies offering these internships would compete for them by paying them money. Otherwise, why don't firms just pay their other workers the minimum wage?

4/04/2010 6:04 AM  

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