Categoria: International

Covid-19 Is Threatening Gender Equality in the Internship Marketplace

Believe it or not, there's no gender gap in internship. Data show that there's equity in internship opportunities, both in terms of sheer numbers and considering the recruiting rate after an internship.Unlike the regular “labour market”, the “internship market” is surprisingly girl- and women-friendly. For instance, in Italy the percentage distribution of male and female interns in the last few years has always been around fifty-fifty, or 49-51. The same goes for the chances of being hired. There's apparently no disadvantage in being female in the internship universe.This should not be so surprising, though. Girls score better grades at school and at university, they graduate faster and with higher grades than boys. So they're valuable – also because they're not likely to have children. Not yet, at least.Incidentally – the average age of first-time mothers in Italy is 32. That's the reason why if you're recruiting interns you're not going to have to worry about pregnancies. That's a huge factor when it comes to choosing a candidate for a position. So, we can safely consider that this factor is not so relevant when we speak about internship.But – there's a couple of buts.First of all, if it's true that internship is a strange oasis where girls and women find equal opportunities, it is also true that internships undeniably are the very bottom step of the labour market. Interns still can be unpaid – however in Italy we have the unpaid internship issue partially under control, as we've fought and obtained laws that prohibit them. At least when the internship takes place after school or graduation.  Even if they're paid, they're usually underpaid. In Italy the “minimum wage” for interns is a regional issue, so it is set at a regional level – and it spans from 300 euro per month (in Sicily) to 800 euro per month (in Latium). Furthermore, internship gives no right to social insurance contribution, sick leave, or holiday pay. It is, as stated, the very bottom step. No wonder that at this step we can finally find equality.There's no data, in addition, about who gets what in the internship market – namely if women and men achieve, at a general level, the same amount of opportunities of the same quality. Are low-quality internships – less paid, less training-focused, and leading to less socially valued jobs – equally distributed between male and female candidates? Or perhaps the best internships are more frequently caught by men, leaving the second best to women? Unfortunately, this second statement's way more likely. Also for the fact that a large share of the best internship opportunities is nowadays offered by tech companies, and these companies look for STEM competences, and women are still frightened by STEM studies. There's a huge field of opportunities girls and women can't even get close to, as they're not skilled enough. When they are skilled, there's the good old gender stereotype looming on them, thus preventing (some of) them to ask for what they want, preventing (some of the) employers recognizing their value and hire them.Moreover, young women still report being asked extremely private questions during work interviews. Let's say that, if internship is that strange oasis I was talking about, every further step in the labor market is not. In ten and more years of activity, this webmagazine received a lot of stories about questions such as “who are you living with?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you plan to have kids?” posed during job interviews. Yes, we could point out that there are laws against this kind of job interview question. We could emphasise that it is illegal to ask such questions. It is – but we all know that it comes down to “your word against mine”, and even if you're right, and even if you manage to prove that the recruiter asked you this and that – the fact is, you're the one who's not going to get the internship, or the job. So evidently, just out of the strange oasis, reality waits on girls and women.Finally, the actual existence of this strange oasis of internship equality is threatened by Covid-19. The last data we collected show that the fifty-fifty dream is, if not over, heavily bruised. For instance, in the first quarter of 2020 – the last mostly Covid-free quarter – around 69.000 internships  were activated in Italy: 51% of these interns were women, 49% were men. But then Covid-19 came, and in the second quarter of 2020 in Italy the number of internships dropped to 27.000: and guess what – only 46% of them involved women, and 54% involved men.Furthermore, let's take the Italian region of Campania (although not the best case of equality in Italy in the first place): considering the 7.000 internships started between May and August 2020, after the first wave of the pandemic, 43% involved female interns and 57% male interns. Let's compare now this set of data with the same period of 2019: not only the number of internship was obviously higher, 10.000, last year – but also the percentage distribution of internship opportunities was three points higher for women and three points lower for men.Maybe then I should adjust the first line of this article: there was no gender gap in internship.So we're facing a new challenge, or threat: how can we protect the strange oasis, and keep the internship opportunities equal, when it's quite clear that a lot of people still think, in 2020, that work is more important to men than women? More precisely, that in case of job shortage, men should be hired first?Now one could say: if they're not hired, women could build their jobs by themselves; become startuppers. Of course they could, but this doesn't happen so often. On the roughly 7.500 innovative startups registered in Italy at the end of 2017, for instance, just 15% were mainly led by women. A lot could be said about the reason: lack of self confidence, lack of support not only from banks but also from the first FFF circle, culture, and stereotypes again. I'm not going to dwell on it. Personally, of course, I did it – I created my own webmagazine, my own company. But I learnt the hard way that it matters, yes, for I can tell my story and maybe some girl or woman could find it resonating. But one's personal experience – or model – will not solve the entire problem. So we've got to worry about what's going on in the labour market,at every level, even the very bottom level. We must be ready to fight for what we've achieved in the last few decades. Now's the time for managers who care for gender equality to hire more women, to make sure girls and young women are given at least the same opportunities than before the pandemic, in terms of internships and jobs. Or we're going to put all the weight of the Covid's consequences on the women's shoulder. Again. And that wouldn't be fair, or acceptable. [This article was ispired by Voltolina's speech in the panel "Women who lead the change", in the framework of the Ashoka Changemaker Summit 2020]

Exploited Interns, a Documentary Shows the Cracks But Not the Fixes

“Call Me Intern” is the story of Leo Davis Hyde, the kiwi guy who, back in the summer of 2015,  lived (or rather pretended to live) in a tent during an unpaid internship in Geneva. Produced by Collective Bievre and distributed by Berta Film, it could have been a good documentary... A decade ago.Its main goal is to fully disclose the impact of unpaid internships on the lives of young people: how they are unfair and how they bolster exploitation in the labor market. Which is just... not enough.As an advocate for interns’ rights, as an Ashoka Fellow elected a couple of years ago for this very battle against unpaid and unfair internships in Italy, should I blindly praise any portray – just because it is important to speak about the topic? Or at least keep quiet if I happen to disagree? Is this article some sort of unreasonable friendly fire? Honestly, I don't think so.First of all, I'm not saying that Leo Davis Hyde and Nathalie Berger's documentary is crap. It is well done, especially considering the videomakers' young age and most likely the lack of money.  It even won the Best New Zealand Documentary at Doc Edge 2019, the Doxa Film Festival's Nigel Moore Award for Youth Programming, and it was among the 159 documentary features submitted for the 2019 Oscar race (the short list was announced a few days ago, and Call Me Intern didn't make it).I’m sorry to say that it misses the point, though.The documentary aims to state that unpaid internships exist. That they’re a way for companies and institutions an Ngos to get qualified work for free. That unpaid interns struggle to make ends meet.Did we need a documentary to discover it? Maybe fifteen, maybe even ten years ago, the answer would have been yes. Nowadays? No. Not anymore. In any developed country everyone and their mother have either been an intern, or had a family member experiencing it. It is no news anymore.What we do need to tell now, what we need people to know, is what has been done in the last decade to fight for interns rights, to change the laws (and the culture) that allow unpaid internships, to empower interns themselves. What will be done in the next two, five, ten years. Unfortunately, there’s none of that in this one hour-long documentary. Yes, in the last four (four) minutes the filmmakers show the “International Interns' Strike” proclaimed in 2015 by the “Global Intern Coalition”, a network of organizations aiming to improve workplace rights for interns worldwide, which this webmagazine – Repubblica degli Stagisti – is of course a member of. What they do not tell is what the members of the aforementioned Coalition are doing in their own countries, though.There are at least two countries where unpaid internships have been forbidden by law in the last few years: France in 2009 and Italy between 2012 and 2014. The legislative change did not fell out of thin air. It has been driven by organizations that  lead the battle, prodding the policy makers, giving voice to the interns’ struggle.In France it was Génération Précaire, a movement run by volunteers (back in 2015, when we interviewed them, they were ten), with no hierarchy, no fundings, but nevertheless able to defend the rights of the over 800.000 internships happening in France every year. Unpaid internships were allowed in France until Génération Précaire (also a member of the Coalition, of course) took care of it. Certain types of internships still can be unpaid – if shorter than a certain lenght, for instance. But the vast majority of French interns have now the right to receive around 550 euro per month – the exact amount changes periodically, accordingly to the Smic (the French minimum wage). The second country where the struggle against unpaid interships is making good progress is Italy. We lead the battle – and by “we” I mean us, actually: Repubblica degli Stagisti – and we won. Unpaid internship are no longer legal, in Italy, unless they happen during education (yes, unfortunately also during university, but hey, we’re working on it). The minimum grant ranges from 300 to 800 euro per month, depending on the region.This webmagazine you’re reading is the main reason of the change in Italy. An improvement for over 350.000 on the total of 500.000 interns (“stagisti”, in Italian) per year, due to our work. Our articles, proposals, our lobbying activity towards politicians, unions, policy makers.Wasn’t this documentary a huge occasion to celebrate and honor the victories? Showing that it is possible, indeed, to fight and win against Sanson? The documentary shows nothing of this work.One could say: oh Lord you’re pissed. Who gives a damn about two small, European, not even English-speaking countries? Well, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep in mind that France and Italy still are a part of the G8: the summit of the eight more powerful countries in the whole world. Maybe not forever, but as a matter of fact – yeah, France and Italy do matter.Besides, it is highly interesting to  note that France and Italy achieved the goal – getting rid of unpaid internships – in totally different ways.  Génération Précaire did it by putting pression on the public through flashmobs and street demonstrations, with a quite aggressive communication strategy. Repubblica degli Stagisti did it by liaising with the willing stakeholders (institutions, political parties, unions, private companies) interested in improving the system of internship, with an inclusive strategy.Strategy being in both cases the operative word. The goal may be the same – overcome unfair internships all over the world – but in order to reach it, it is wise to choose the best strategy according to each country and their economic development as well as the labor market's peculiarities, the strength or weakness of trade unions, even tradition and work culture. French and Italian interns have now the right to be paid fairly: both strategies, even if throughly different from one another, have paid off. There's no competition, no right or wrong way to do it: there's just the final outcome. In both cases, the results speak for themselves.Where's the storytelling of the different strategies that can be put in place to win the battle against unpaid internships, in Call Me Intern?  Nowhere to be found.But let’s say that the videomakers were not keen on Génération Précaire's or Repubblica degli Stagisti's work. Let’s say that they weren’t willing to give visibility to individual initiatives. Which is kind of peculiar, because obviously any main change is driven by particular initiatives, by single individuals or organizations. But let’s agree over the fact that maybe it was the filmmakers' policy.Why then not mentioning the European Quality Charter of Internships and Traineeships and its journey through the EU institutions – and show how a good and concrete proposal can be slowed, and progressively emptied by politics? It would have been relevant.Instead, Leo Davis Hyde and Nathalie Berger choose to focus on two main stories of young(ish) people, both African-American, both dissatisfied with their internship experience. Even if the stories are different enough, and interesting enough, I must admit that I’m not totally comfortable with either of them.If your mission is to let the whole world discover the unknown plague of unpaid internships, it would make more sense to choose half a dozen or so of “average interns” – the more diverse, the better. The filmmakers choose instead to dramatize the storytelling by selecting a young man, Kyle Grant, who happens to: find out that the company of his dreams, Warner Music, has a shitty policy about internships' grants; knock his girlfriend up; get kicked out by his mother; and end in a homeless shelter in NY. All of this during the same unpaid internship, which eventually is terminated by his boss over a small matter. Is this an honest depiction of the average life and problems of the average intern? Not really. In my opinion Grant's story is just too much. It could have been great if placed alongside a couple of more “regular” stories, but as the main story it just feels too dramatic. Too extreme.Especially considering that after like ten minutes or so of going over his story, there’s barely a minute to tell the happy ending – the fact that Kyle’s been part of a class action of interns against Warner Music, which ended up in a four-million-dollar agreement. So the most important part of his story, the part that actually explains why the documentary followed him and not some other exploited intern, is just overlooked.As for the other story, Marisa Adam's, as a woman and a feminist I have the utmost respect for what Adam says about experiencing sexual harassment during her internship. I feel quite ill at ease, though, for the documentary implies that female interns are more likely to be molested because they’re “just” interns and have no rights. This is quite inaccurate for at least two reasons. For one thing, there’s no evidence that interns would be sexually assaulted more frequently than regular employees in the workplace. Moreover, there are laws protecting people – men, women and everyone in between – from being sexually harassed everywhere (in the workplace, at home, in the streets) and the validity of these laws does not expire just because one’s an intern. Even if some US judge once ruled that unpaid interns don't have the status of employees and therefore can't bring sexual harassment claims, there's of course other ways to defend ourselves on the legal side, in the United States as well as everywhere else.So, again: Marisa Adam's story hardly tells something about “internshipping”. Maybe it tells something about expectations, and broken trust, and sensibility, and even new beginnings. But it is not a story able to represent the vast majority of interns.As for the other voices – the “experts”– they certainly know what they're talking about, but... no one among them did anything to fix the problem. To improve the quality of internships. There are no changemakers in Call Me Intern. There could be – I'm quite sure there must be, actually – other people around the world who did things to tackle the problem, to improve the life of the millions of young (and even not so young) people engaged in internships every year. Other than Génération Précaire in France, other than us of Repubblica degli Stagisti in Italy. I would have been glad to discover them in this documentary. I didn't have the chance – there is none. (In fact, if any of you readers happen to know about improvements in internships' laws, or any other achievement related to the topic of internship anywhere in the world, please let us know: we would be very interested in cover it on our webmagazine).“Call Me Intern” is not a bad documentary. Yet, it could have been so much more. And, PS: internships at the United Nations still are unpaid.Eleonora Voltolina

Global Apprenticeship Network: dal 2013 il movimento globale per l’apprendistato

La disoccupazione giovanile costituisce indubbiamente uno dei problemi sociali più gravi del 21esimo secolo. Secondo i dati dell’Oil (Organizzazione internazionale del lavoro, agenzia Onu che si occupa di diritti umani e giustizia sociale) i giovani che cercano lavoro e non lo trovano sono 64 milioni in tutto il mondo e il tasso di disoccupazione giovanile supera di quasi tre volte quello degli adulti. Nell’Unione Europea l’ultimo dato disponibile parla di un 16,1% di under 25 disoccupati. Nonostante i dati Istat abbiano evidenziato come a maggio sia scesa ai livelli più bassi da sei anni (31,9%), in Italia il problema si fa sentire in maniera molto intensa. Nel nostro Paese, in particolare, a preoccupare è il dato sui cosiddetti Neet – ossia i giovani che non studiano e non lavorano – che l’Istat ha certificato essere, nel 2017, 2 milioni 189mila, ossia il 24,1% del totale. Si tratta del dato più alto di tutta l’UE. Come spiega uno studio Oil, nel vecchio continente il fenomeno è dovuto ad una sostanziale discrepanza tra l’offerta e la domanda di lavoro, con una percentuale tra il 25-45% di lavoratori iper-qualificati o sotto-qualificati a fronte delle opportunità che il mercato offre.Per provare a dare una risposta concreta al problema, nel 2013, a seguito di un’esortazione del G20, è nato il Gan (Global Apprenticeship Network), fondato grazie ad un’iniziativa coordinata dall’Oil, dall’Ocse e dall’Ioe (International Organization of Employees, associazione di carattere internazionale con sede in Svizzera che riunisce organizzazioni di categoria dei datori di lavoro di 143 paesi nel mondo). Il Gan è un’organizzazione no-profit con sede in Svizzera, a Ginevra, la cui mission è quella di creare un network tra imprese, istituzioni e lavoratori, per valorizzare strumenti come l’apprendistato o il tirocinio o lo stage, ritenuti un elemento imprescindibile per consentire ai giovani di acquisire la formazione e le abilità necessarie per muoversi e competere al meglio nel mercato del lavoro. Da inizio 2016, il presidente è Alain Dehaze, Ceo di Adecco.Nel fare ciò, l’organizzazione agisce, principalmente, tramite attività di advocacy nei confronti delle istituzioni – ad esempio all’interno del G20, ove è ammessa come osservatrice – e facendosi veicolo di iniziative in materia di apprendistato e simili. Questo avviene grazie alla collaborazione con diverse multinazionali partner del Gan, che ogni anno si impegnano ad organizzare programmi di apprendistato/tirocini formativi a cui l’organizzazione dà risalto, e raccogliere delle testimonianze degli Ambassadors, ossia ex stagisti/apprendisti che raccontano le loro esperienze con lo scopo di stimolare la curiosità e il coraggio dei loro coetanei. Tali testimonianze sono poi pubblicate nei documenti ufficiali reperibili in rete sul sito dell’organizzazione o in altre sedi. Tra i partner globali del Gan figurano quindici importanti multinazionali, l’Ocse (con anche il Biac – Business and Industry Advisory Committee), l’organizzazione europea DigitalEurope e Fundación Bertelsmann, fondazione spagnola attiva nel contrasto alla disoccupazione giovanile. Si tratta di un network presente in quattro continenti e capace di entrare in contatto con 185 ministeri del lavoro, e con più di 170 aziende e più di 150 federazioni di lavoratori in tutto il mondo. Oltre che a livello globale, inoltre, l’organizzazione è attiva con 11 divisioni in Turchia, Indonesia, Spagna, Argentina, Colombia, Messico, Malawi, Tanzania, Francia, Costa Rica e Namibia e a breve dovrebbe nascere un network affiliato al Gan anche in Olanda. Italia invece non pervenuta: a quanto risulta dal sito ufficiale del Gan, da noi non ci sono nemmeno federazioni o organizzazioni di lavoratori affiliate.Oltre alle attività di advocacy e alla creazione di un network tra imprese, lavoratori e federazioni, il Gan è impegnato anche in attività di studio e ricerca. In particolare, avvalendosi della preziosa consulenza di Ocse e di Oil, l’organizzazione tiene conferenze in tutto il mondo – quest’anno ha organizzato un evento a Davos – e pubblica paper e studi in cui si analizzano le diverse legislazioni in materia di apprendistato e si studiano gli impatti di tale strumento sul mercato dal lavoro. Ad esempio, una pubblicazione del 2014 dal titolo “Closing the policy gap on apprenticeships” aveva dato un quadro assai negativo della situazione nel nostro paese: «In Italy, apprenticeships for youth only exist in theory, not in practice. Apprenticeships have a bad reputation in Italian society and are seen as competition by the education system. The only existing work-readiness system is to give young people work experience after high school and university».Per verificare l’andamento e l’efficacia delle proprie attività il Gan effettua sondaggi tra i propri membri e pubblica ogni anno dei report dettagliati e dei documenti in cui si dà conto dei contributi delle multinazionali ad esso affiliate. Tra le aziende membri dell’organizzazione c’è Nestlé, che in Italia è anche parte del network de la Repubblica degli Stagisti. La multinazionale, anch’essa svizzera, collabora con il Gan promuovendo il proprio programma Nestlé Global Youth Initiative che, tra il 2014 e il 2016, ha offerto più di 36mila posti di lavoro e quasi 20mila apprendistati e tirocini in tutto il mondo. Di cui, rispettivamente, 20mila e 12mila in Europa.Stando ai sondaggi pubblicati nel report annuale del 2017, il 73% dei membri e affiliati al Gan ritiene utile l’attività dell’associazione. Gli aspetti più apprezzati dell’organizzazione sono la condivisione delle best practice in materia di apprendistato, l’attività di advocacy, la capacità di attivare le aziende e il riuscire a metterle in contatto con istituzioni e lavoratori. Per il 63% degli intervistati l’attività del Gan è, infatti, preziosa nell’esortare le aziende a promuovere programmi di apprendistato e tirocini. Probabilmente, dopo soli cinque anni di esistenza, è ancora presto per parlare – come invece fa il report annuale del 2017 – di «rivoluzione nel mondo dell’apprendistato» portata dall’organizzazione. Ma è certamente un'iniziativa da tenere d'occhio. Giulio Monga

More protection for freelance workers in NYC: the «Freelance isn’t free Act» becomes law

Tomorrow – May 15, 2017 – will be a great day for New York freelancers: the day Freelance Isn’t Free Act will go into effect. The Act, the first of its kind in the US, provides basic protections for freelance work. On October the 27th, 2016, in fact, New York City became the first city in the United States to protect freelance workers against client nonpayment. A few weeks later, on November the 16th, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed it into law, starting the 180 days countdown until it goes into effect. Everything started in September 2015 with the Freelance Isn’t Free Act Campaign launch. Over the course of the following year, freelancers across the city shared nonpayment stories, met with Council Members and stood together at City Hall to spread awareness about client nonpayment. Over 8.000 freelancers signed the Freelance isn’t free petition to push the bill to vote and, in the end, the act passed with 51 votes.The law is very important because it’s the first of its kind in the US and it will serve as a national model for protecting freelance workers for all the states; 55 million Americans freelance across the country (about one third of the entire workforce) and almost 40% workers in NYC.But what does the law say? It establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, «specifically, the right to written contract, the right to be paid timely and in full, and the right to be free of retaliation. The bill would create penalties for violations of these rights, including statutory damages, double damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees».Thanks to the law, now freelancers who are owned over $800 of work during a four month period must have a written contract listing «the scope of work, rate, method of payment and the payment due date». This because «a contract is the foundation for a great working relationship».The payment, and this is one of the most important things accomplished by the law, must be received within 30 days of work completion or by the date specified in the contract. Clients can’t ask freelancers to settle for a smaller but sooner payment, and if they refuse to provide a contract they can face a $250 penalty. If payment is not received, then freelancers can file a court action and receive up to double as damages in case of a win. That’s not all: clients who repeatedly fail to abide with the rules, may also be subject to civil penalties up to 25,000 dollars.The Freelance Isn’t Free Act would also «require the Office of Labor Standards to receive complaints, create a navigation program and to gather data and report on the effectiveness of the law». The intent of the law is to protect freelance workers in NYC, but today many freelancers work with remote clients. In this case, «if the client’s office is located outside of NYC, and most of their business takes place outside of NYC, they may not be subject to the requirements of the new law». But Freelancers Union is working on it: they have launched a new petition to bring the Freelance Isn’t Free Act across the nation, and they already received the support of more than 10k freelancers. They are also working to innovate new ways to get freelancers the health care they need. Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, Currently the Chair of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, founded the nonprofit Freelancers Union in 2003. She promotes the needs of the independent workforce through advocacy, education and serving the needs of the freelancers. «The freelance workforce is growing and independent workers are emerging as a powerful economic and political force», says Horowitz illustrating the “Freelancing in America”, the most comprehensive study of the independent workforce, published on October 2016. The study analyzes the growing freelance economy, which in 2016 contributed $1 trillion dollars to the US economy. In spite of this, freelancers still fight with income instability, debt, access to affordable healthcare, late or nonpayment. However the annual study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork shows most freelancers do it by choice: they don’t miss a traditional employment. They are able to work less than 40 hours per week and they feel respected and excited to start each day.According to the Freelancing in America 2016 survey, 55 million Americans are freelancing, but official statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is missing.  BLS first examined gig workers in a 1995 survey and did it again in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2005. Now, after 12 years since the last survey, the U.S. Department of Labor is funding a one-time update to the survey in May 2017. What is for sure, gig workers affect occupations in many different groups, as arts and design, computer and information technology, media and communications, constructions and extractions, comprising many different types and work across all industries.The Freelancing in America 2016 report shows that, in spite of everything, the outlook for independent workers is positive. People started freelancing more by choice than necessity. Half of freelancers says there’s no amount of money that would get them to take a traditional job and stop freelancing, not only because of the freedom and flexibility they can have, now, but also because they feel more empowered, respected and motivated than ever before.The days of a nine-to-five job are almost gone. With freelancers making a huge part of the US economy, and thanks to the Freelancer Isn’t Free Act, now they will also have more protections for their work. At least in New York City. There’s still a long way to go, but what Freelancers Union is doing it’s the first step of a long journey that will probably extend to other big cities in the US. And that many other freelancers all around the world should take as a model.Marianna LeporeFoto rettangolare di Geralt da Pixabay in modalità creative commons

Global Intern Strike, one day against unpaid internships

«Unpaid traineeships are an unacceptable practice because they create inequality between people at the start of their career, and they are increasingly replacing entry level jobs»: still hearing such words at the beginning of 2017 is bitter, after youth unemployment and poverty have been recognized as a global challenge and a top policy concern, with 71 million unemployed youth worldwide and 156 million young workers living in poverty, as the International Labour Organization reports. The quote is from EUInterns4Interns, one of the organizations that are fighting for the end of unpaid and underpaid internships for all youth, who decided to unite for a day in a Global Intern Strike and call for the rights of young people involved in internship programs around the world. The strike is scheduled on February 20th and a number of actions, ranging from walkouts, to protest marches, panel discussions and brainstorming sessions are going to ne held in various European cities, as well as in the United States and Canada.In Europe the situation is especially worrying. In two-thirds of European economies, youth unemployment remains above 20% (in Italy, currently at 37,9%), and more than one in three unemployed young people have been looking for work for more than a year, the World Economic Forum reports. Despite the launch of the Youth Guarantee in 2013 to ensure that “all young people receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship and traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education”, across the Union unpaid and underpaid internships are still a reality for many young people. A confirmation that the Youth Guarantee has not yet brought the success it promised, experts point out. At the strike, which is coordinated by the Global Intern Coalition, “young people across the world will come together to say NO to the exploitative and exclusionary practice of unpaid internships”, as it is stated in the Facebook event. Protests are going to take place in Brussels, Geneva (through the Fair Internship Initiative, a group of former and current trainees at the United Nations fighting for quality and paid internships at the UN), Vienna, Washington, D.C., New York and Toronto, but also other cities might confirm their participation to the strike. The Global Intern Coalition (Gic) is a network of organizations aimed at improving workplace rights for interns worldwide and collaborates with the public, private, and non-profit sectors to lead the global intern rights movement. Repubblica degli Stagisti, the Italian online newsmagazine focusing on the themes of internships and work for young people, advocating for the improvement of interns' working conditions in the country and working as a network for the promotion of quality internships, is part of the coalition as the representative for Italy, together with many international intern organizations from the United States, Canada, UK, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. In Brussels, the protest is going to take place at 12.30 at the Rond-Point Schuman, in front of the European Commission, to call for action on three key issues: unpaid and underpaid internships both on the Belgian labour market, inside the EU Institutions, and across Europe. Following the protest, a panel discussion will be held at the European Commission, under the name of “Unpaid Internships in light of the European Pillar of Social Rights”. Actions in Brussels are organized by the Brussels Interns NGO (B!ngo), a not-for-profit organization that defends interns’ rights in the Belgian capital and supports them through a campaign named “Just Pay!” ensuring that that internship-providers comply with the national law on internships (which does not allow un(der)paid internships outside official education). Specifically, the NGO monitors the internships which do not appear to abide the law, listing the internship-providers’ online ads on their website and contacting them to clarify the situation. If these are unresponsive or show no intention of changing their behaviour, they increase pressure through social media, and ultimately support individuals who wish to take the issue to the Belgian authorities. One of the most effective strategies is a letter of “non-application” that the NGO encourages people to send to the internship-provider, stating their unwillingness to apply for the position because it is unpaid.Up to date, 29 cases as such have been solved, which remains as one of the biggest achievements of the organization. In addition to the campaign, the NGO also provides a database that matches internship-seekers with quality internships compliant with the European Quality Charter of Internships and Traineeships, and it offers workshops with trainees at the EU to teach them about their rights and how to get jobs.The Belgian job market is made especially complex because of its closeness to the European Union job market, where the national intern law does not apply: despite being generally well-paid at the Parliament and Commission, interns might find themselves working for free in at least three instances (working for one of the projects of the EU; in the cabinet of an MEP or for the European External Action Service (EEAS) outside of Brussels). But EU interns are no different to any others, and that is why EUInterns4Interns is taking part in the Brussels strike too, and hosting the panel discussion that will follow the protest. This is a group of EU Commission trainees (the so-called Blue Book) who, by acknowledging their fortunate position, acts to raise awareness and support the advocacy efforts for achieving fairer conditions for all interns.EUInterns4Interns is only one of the many groups that were born in Brussels around the theme of internships - among these, Trainees & Interns in Brussels, EPSA Official | European Parliament Stagiaires Association, European Parliament Stagiaires, InternsGoPro, Apply For Fairness and Brussels Interns. It is the sign that camaraderie among interns, in and outside of the European institutions, is solid and lively, although advocacy practices are rather difficult to carry on, as most of these internships only last for 5 months, leading to a fast interchange of people. Why a strike instead of other means of advocacy? «We spent the last 3 to 5 years trying all other means of campaigning, letters, reports, surveys, but we have been largely ignored» says Kamila Kingstone, Advocacy & Communications Collaborator at B!ngo. «A strike is the last resort. What we are trying to do is not to just reach out to governments, but to reach into employers to start a conversation with their interns, because it’s such a taboo that interns don’t even want to say how dissatisfied they are. I think that we have contributed to a huge cultural shift in Brussels: it used to be completely accepted that interns were unpaid, now it is discussed everywhere».The social media campaign promoting the strike has already reached 90.000 people, and several hundreds are expected to come. The protest is scheduled for lunchtime, to encourage interns to come out and gather in front of the Commission. After that, some might just choose to go back to their offices, having used a lunchbreak to make their voice heard, unwilling to get in trouble if they don’t show up to their boss. Others might choose to stay for the panel discussion and make it a strike until the end of the day. It is difficult to predict whether the initiative will be successful or not, but if there is one take-away point, it should be that the first step to end unpaid and underpaid internships is in the hands of young people themselves, not to accept the status quo, advocating for better intern rights, and defending what they do as work.Irene Dominioni

Milan, the startup center for foreign citizens

A growing number of applications compared to the previous months: it’s the result of the recently published Italia Startup Visa report. According to this report, in the second quarter of this year 37 applications have been submitted, compared to the 33 of the first quarter of 2016. Since the beginning of the program, in 2014, 84 startups have been created and 34 of these decided to set up in Lombardia, in the north of Italy. In particular, 21 have chosen the Milan district. Sixty one startups set up in the North, whereas only four decided to stay in the South. Why did they choose Milan? «Because it’s a fertile territory for startups», says Shota Hayashi, the founder of Genuine Education Network (GEN) to Repubblica degli Stagisti: «And because there’s a good city administration and most of our partners live here. Milan is a very flexible city, too, and here people are open minded more than in other cities». GEN was born in June 2014, «Last year we organized some workshops in Expo Milano 2015 and we started a new program for kids in Japanese in the MUBA museum. I believe» says Shota «this city is our definitive headquarter and I suggest people to join the Italia Startup Visa program, especially here in Milan». Sharon Ezra suggests the same to startuppers: she is the founder with Eugenio Puglisi of Quattrocento Eyewear. «The Italian Startup Visa has been a wonderful experience. I think this program can really bring value as startuppers can bring value to Italy, too». Repubblica degli Stagisti wrote about Quattrocento last year, when Forbes put it in the list of “15 startups you need to know for 2015”. Sharon is an Israeli designer and she decided, after a period of study in Milan, to launch here the startup Quattrocento. «I have been living in Milan for five years and Eugenio for nine. We both like this city, the business center in Italy. That’s why we chose to launch our startup here. It’s the fashion world capital and we work with north Italian artisans, so Milan was the best place to let this project grow». «It’s a very international city, too, and the startup ecosystem is much more advanced here than in any other Italian city» says Sharon; she believes that it is a good program and found the people working for it really helpful, eager to solve any kind of problem. «But there’s one really difficult thing: the Italian bureaucracy. Having a residency permit is a very slow process and it’s not easy for a foreigner to understand it». In spite of this, 132 applications have been submitted since June 2014, when the Italian government policies to attract and retain innovative entrepreneurs from all over the world was launched. The Italia Startup Visa wants to attract the human and financial capital from all over the world simplifying the visa concession for not European freelance contractors who want to launch an innovative startup or invest in an existing one as business partners. Most of the applications came from Russia followed by the US and China. Italia Startup Visa wants to retain innovative entrepreneurs who are already in Italy and wish to prolong their stay to establish an innovative startup. That’s why on December 2014 was launched Italia Startup Hub, too, simplifying the conversion of visa permits. But in this case only five applications have been submitted since 2014. None in 2016.  The main focus of 2013 immigration quotas has been partially achieved; the efforts towards a simplification of the Visa process made by the Italian government should be acknowledged. The figures from the next quarter will show whether the growing trend is still confirmed.  Marianna Lepore

A social media campaign asking for fair paid UN internships

Unpaid interns forced to bear high costs in expensive cities: it’s a worldwide problem, not only an Italian one, as this webmagazine – Repubblica degli Stagisti – has already written many times. It happens in very prestigious offices, too, as the UN buildings. This is why UN trainees have been protesting for many years asking for fair paid internships. Repubblica degli Stagisti has always supported this battle: years ago we wrote about the list of international organizations that do not pay interns; two years ago we raised the case of free internships in the UNHCR Rome office. Last summer, we closely followed the case of the intern living in a tent in Geneva, who was doing an unpaid internship at the UN. And thanks to years of articles and campaigns asking for paid internships at embassies and consulates around the world, we have succeeded in celebrating, In Italy, the introduction of a minimum refund for Mae-CRUI internships.These are all examples showing the support of Repubblica degli Stagisti to the UN trainees protest. Despite the demonstrations and the support they have received, UN interns weren’t able to get any results. This is why the Fair internship initiative (a group of current and former United Nations interns advocating for higher quality and fairly remunerated internships within the United Nations System) has created a social media campaign which will see its maximum effect Tuesday March 1st.«We are having an important event in New York on February 29th, the UN’s Fifth Committee. They will discuss and decide budgetary and administrative issues, and also recommend measures to their specialized agencies. This is our best chance so far to get concrete changes in the UN's internship policy since the Fair Internship Initiative first started nearly a year ago», says Fernanda Dutra, who curated the media campaign, to Repubblica degli Stagisti. «We thought it was time to show the UN that not only interns in Geneva or in New York care about this issue. Nothing better than a social media campaign in this case, in which hundreds of people can show their support to the cause by following closely this topic, asking for a change». Support does not seem to be missing. Already more than 320 people have decided to share the message on Thunderclap: "#ZeroDiscrimination also means equal opportunities at the UN. I support Fair Internship Initiative #UNpaidIsUNfair ". «The purpose of the social media campaign is to raise awareness on this issue» Fernanda Dutra explains: «In this sense, I believe we have already achieved this goal. With the support received on Thunderclap we got a social reach of nearly 700 thousand people, without paying a single cent to promote this campaign».It’s easy to join the movement: anyone can register on Thunderclap with his Facebook or Twitter account, and support the message. On March 1st, the platform «will blast out this message from everyone’s account at the same time, creating a wave of attention».But there is more: there is a web page, named "Our Stories", where anyone can learn a little more about the conditions experienced by these interns, mostly in expensive cities like Geneva and New York. And reading the story of Kara, that after so many sacrifices endured by her family after the economic crisis of 9/11, started a master in Geneva thanks to a US government loan. But in the swiss city she was able to find only unpaid internships. She landed an unpaid UN internship, and after months of double jobs, she ended coming back home to the States, no longer able to afford an unpaid internships.This is only one of many interns’ stories in the United Nations buildings. These young people are subject to very expensive costs: «According to the World Health Organization, interns are able to live in Geneva with about 1800-2000 Swiss Francs» says Fernanda to Repubblica degli stagisti. But what the organization identifies as «average cost» in reality «is below the poverty line which in Geneva is 2200 Swiss Francs».This is why the Fair Internship Initiative was born: to give voice and resonance to the condition experienced by too many interns. And for the same reason they decided to launch this media campaign. «The UN’s Fifth Committee is the only one that can change the internships policy», says Matteo De Simone, of "Fair internship initiative Geneva", to Repubblica degli Stagisti. «That’s why we ask for support to all: FII in New York met with more than thirty delegations and we are in contact with the Presidency of the Staff Union and with the UN Youth Envoy. But until today, France was the only member State which has officially supported this battle» thanks to movement Génération Précaire: «The other member states support us unofficially, pressing the UN to better use the existing funds - the UN budget is around 42 billion dollars. (This is the total expeditur for a given year, while as staff costs, general service and professional categories  it was almost 5 billion dollars in 2013) They believe there is a chance to establish an interns’ scholarship».This fact could radically change the lives of many interns, but until today it has not received the support of the Secretariat, convinced that «States are to establish a new budget line to be added to the existing contributions».The Fair Internship Initiative is carried out without public support: Ahmad Alhendawi, 31, the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth only said that «the policy of the United Nations internship should change» and that «we should try to draw more people from the South of the world». A neutral position probably due to the fact that many interns in this office are unpaid. While the web is getting ready to explode on March 1st, with hundreds of messages in favor of paid internships, there will also be live protests. In Geneva there will be a symbolic camping in Place des Nations in front of the UN, while in New York young people will be moving around with hiking backpacks distributing informational materials.The message they want to send is clear: to adjust the working conditions of the younger workers to the values that the United Nations represents. And when we say “younger unpaid workers” we refer to more than four thousand people, according to the report published by the UN. In fact, this number refers to 2012-13 and is out of date, the more recent report is yet to be published. The United Nations data show that 3900 out of these 4500 unpaid people were interns, the vast majority women.And what is more alarming is these numbers do not take into account the trainees in specialized agencies such as UNESCO, FAO, ILO. The real number of unpaid interns is probably higher. This is why it is time to act, to be heard and to go on with the protest Repubblica degli stagisti has been supporting for many years: internships must always have a refund, because work must always be paid for. Otherwise we end up leaving out of this opportunity hundreds of qualified young people without a rich family that can support them. And, probably, only few people will have the chance to start a brilliant career.@MariannaLeporeItalian text here

Italian IT company launches app to fight violence against women: Ukrainian intern Olga tells how

Through the quality label "OK Stage", since 2009 Repubblica degli Stagisti encourages companies to guarantee young people a steady stepping stone to the workplace by offering fair and quality internships, according to the principles of the "Intern's Bill of rights", which was written and promoted by Repubblica degli Stagisti and has inspired several political initiatives and legislative proposals along the way. Amongst the companies adhering  to the quality label is IT specialist Spindox, which tomorrow, November 25, joins the #Metticiilcuore campaign to enlist in the fight for the elimination of violence against women. Intern Olga Parkhomenko, 26, gives an insight on how Spindox technology will help - and how this job experience has affected her.My name is Olga and I was born in 1989 in the big and beautiful Dnipropetrovsk, in east Ukraine. I am currently interning as UI/UX designer junior in Milan based IT company Spindox and  I feel lucky to be gaining experience in such a big company, with many important customers, and develop my creative ideas. Something I really like about Spindox is that it is an open-minded and socially active company. These very days it is involved in the #Metticiilcuore campaign - litteraly, "Put your heart into it" - launching tomorrow, November 25, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.In partnership with Italian fashion design company OPSObjects, Spindox has developed a smartphone app to help women escape dangerous situations and threats of violence, and has embedded it in OPS!Life, a heart shaped pendant that women can wear as bracelet or necklace, When pressed, it allows them to communicate in real time their location to a selected list of people and ask for immediate help [free download available now for IPhone and Android]. Communication occurs through the smartphone, thanks to Spindox app, via Bluetooth, which is a low energy consumption technology. #Metticiilcuore is the charity campain promoted by non profit organizations Soccorso Rosa along with OPSObjects, under the patronage of the City of Milan, for the prevention of gender-based violence. Personally, I was involved in the project on the communication side, with the design of a presentation intended for investors [cover above]. At this point I had been part of Spindox for a few months. I entered the company in early 2015, after having divided my life for a while between Italy and Ukraine, as I had also found love in this beautiful country. All my secondary school years were spent in Dnipropetrovsk studying humanities and classical studies, which I think helped me pass the entrance examinations at the local National Mining University in 2008. I chose the Faculty of Management, which at the time seemed a good option to build a rewarding career after graduation - even though I have always had a dream, to become a graphic designer, and painting is my big passion. After completing the first three years of study, the choice became inevitable: was I supposed to proceed with the Faculty of Management or to follow my design aspirations? With the support of my parents, I opted for the latter and took the riskier path. I ended up in a Bucharest based academy, which proved the perfect place to learn graphic design, so in the end I was very happy with the choice. I graduated successfully in 2014. Since early childhood, and for many years, I have been a student of classic ballet. Despite being such a feminine and elegant art, ballet demands a steel character, if good results is what the student is after, and I am sure this is something that played a big role in my capacity to be tenacious, hard working and patient. Also, ballet gave the chance to travel a lot and see many other countries. Once I visited Italy, I fell in love with it - with its culture, aesthetics, history... And I met my boyfriend!Ukraine has always been a good country for students and young academics. We have many great, ancient universities and numerous youth organizations, but unfortunately things have changed during these past two years: given the unstable military and economical situation, many young people have left for western countries, in search of better job opportunities. Two of my closest friends, for example, work in Sweden and France. This is a move I made myself in January 2015, wanting to settle in Italy.I had started sending my cv to several Italian companies, applying for designer positions. Two days after sending the application for interning as UI/UX designer junior, I got a reply from Spindox, with a kind interview proposal. During the interview I presented my portfolio and described my skills to the HR person, and we spoke about the internship details and my desire to acquire experience.  After three days, I was happy to find in my email box a letter from Spindox HR Departement with a positive feedback and a paid internship offer: 600 euro per month along with restaurant tickets. Hence, on March 1 my internship started and today I have the chance to work in a great office based in Milan, with other young interns and many experienced, supporting employees and I really enjoy my work: it is about creating apps, websites and designing graphical communication.I do face difficult moments sometimes, but learning to manage them make me stronger, and my colleagues are always willing to support me. Fortunately most of them also speak English and I have found many new friends here. The payment I receive is not huge, but it is enough to fullfil my needs and even allow to make presents to my parents, which is a great incentive to work for me. Of course I aim at becoming an employee here in Spindox, and develop a career.In the end, even if I miss so much my home in Ukraine, I do not regret having moved to Italy and I could give a bit of advice to all young people like me, I would say: don't be afraid of changing your lives, travelling and doing the things you really want to do.Annalisa Di Palo

Know your worth: an American campaign that should expand worldwide

Remember to value your work and the profession: this seems to be the central message of the “Know your worth” campaign launched by the American Institute of Architects and dedicated to the new generation of architects.The Fair Labors Standard Act requires employers to compensate their employees. Basically they have to pay at least a minimum wage for the work they have provided. But, unfortunately, «There’s still an attitude of the older generation to train the younger generation. The feeling is “I’m going to take some time out of my day to train you and in return you need to do some work for us”. This cuts across every profession» according to Terrence F. Canela, deputy general counsel of the AIA, in one of the videos of the “Know your worth” campaign.But work for free is not fair. That’s why AIA started this campaign, which is not necessarily a call for action. «Every year, the Center for emerging professionals and the AIA get questions asking whether students and recent graduates should take internships that aren’t paid» the American Institute of Architects informed Repubblica degli Stagisti. «It is a problem that is slowly dissipating, but not quickly enough. The Center for Emerging professionals created these videos as a response to this problem, but also as a way to begin responding to issues in the large context of the profession». The campaign is dedicated to the many architects around the US: according to the National Council of Architectural registration boards there are 107,581 architects (a three percent increase since 2011) and roughly 85,000 AIA members. Data from NCARB shows a record number of aspiring architects who are testing earlier and finishing in advance the path to licensure. So the average age of a newly licensed architect in 2014 - 33,3 years old - was at its lowest point since 2001.This younger age may affect the decision of working for free, but, as the AIA campaign says, this is wrong. «When you say my work isn’t worth any money, what you are saying is that anyone’s work isn’t worth any money. So if someone is in a situation where there is a need to argue if they should be paid or not, my advice would be to walk away from the situation» said Laura Ondrich, architect at SmithGroupJJR during the “Value your work” video. «The focus of the campaign is to empower emerging professionals to value their work and the profession, as a whole. It will speak to firm culture, the outward appearance of the profession, and the many other high level issues we face in the architecture and design industry. The “Know your worth” campaign is just beginning» says from the American Institute of Architects to Repubblica degli Stagisti.But AIA is struggling for another important issue: the elimination of the term “intern” from the professional language of architecture. «This term does not properly address the level of experience or value that recent graduates bring to the industry. Eliminating this title for graduates with a degree in architecture will inspire emerging professionals to value their work and encourage practitioners and clients to see the value in their work as well». The decision was made during the 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit where participants from the summit «agreed the term “intern” has outlived its usefulness and suggested revising titles along the entire career path».  What AIA is trying to fight in the US is a common worldwide problem for young architects. Already in  2010 the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) revealed that 11% of the students in the UK were not paid in their current or most recent work placement. So RIBA has warned that practices which hire unpaid students will be stripped of their accreditation. Angela Brady, RIBA’S president, promised offenders would be penalized and said «Your practice must commit to paying at least the statutory minimum wage to architecture students working within the practice». But a few years later it was clear that unpaid internships were still going on. So Oliver Richardson, vice-president for education at the RIBA, promised to raise the issue at the RIBA and urged students to contact RIBA with the names of chartered practices still offering unpaid work.In Portugal the professional unpaid internships have been banned by law since 2011, but not for architects and lawyers: every year many of them work for free, because it is the only way to access the profession. The situation is much better in Sweden, where there are no fixed salaries for architects but the salary statistics - based on what members of the Swedish association of architects reported – says the recommended trainee salaries are set at 21,100  SEK (after 3 years of studies) or 18,900 SEK (up to three years of studies) respectively.  In Germany the introduction of a minimum salary of €8.50 per hour since January 1st, 2015 affected interns, as well, but not all of them. Interns have to be paid if their internships last longer than three months but they can still remain unpaid if the stage is required to complete a study course or is required to help you choose a profession.  In Italy, as well, the problem of unpaid internships for young architects still remains. In 2011 a few engineers and architects founded an association called “Iva sei Partita” to focus on the practice of young architects working almost for free in architectural firms. «In Italy after completing the university studies the graduate must pass a state exam to become a fully credited architect, but, after that he is still considered in training. That’s why you have to accept an internship from three to six months in big firms with no pay. Some times they get a free lunch» says Laura Calderoni, from Iva sei Partita, to Repubblica degli Stagisti. «So personnel changes every six months in the big architectural firms. However, there are always younger professionals ready to take the job». Something may be changing because in the past two years new enrollments at the faculty of architecture are decreasing. However it’s too early to say.In order to help young architects understand what the right salary for the work they are doing is, the American Institute of Architects has launched a new tool to provide compensation information for 17 architectural positions by region and firm size. A very interesting Salary Calculator, which includes data from all US respondents employed full-time, that has been positively received by emerging professionals and members of the AIA. With this tool everyone can see the statistical salary for the several different architectural staff positions. A similar tool has been offered by Archinect, too, “The Architecture Salary Poll” where architects can globally submit their salary info anonymously and view sorted results.  A calculator that is impossible to apply in Italy: «Once there was something similar for the Rome Architects Association website, but then, after the fee deregulation, the Antitrust Authority ordered it cancelled. Therefore, today just a few architectural firms employ young architects. In a study of 30 people, usually only three-four are employed. All the others work with VAT numbers and earn around 900 euro net».Very distant from what is happening in the US. If you take a look at the AIA Salary calculator, you can see how a full-time entry-level intern on the path to licensure with fewer than two years of experience could receive from 38,700$ a year in the East north central to 41,500$ in New England.  A dream for many other interns around the world, especially for young Italian architects. A starting point not only for American architects to lay claim to their rights, but also for worldwide trainees to become aware of how unpaid internships is a global problem they should face all together. Marianna LeporeRectangular photo: by Wokandapix from Pixabay in creative commons 

Unclear legislative guidance for British internships: Intern Aware urges the "four week limit"

November 10, chosen day for the first International Interns Day, has finally arrived and youth organisations all over the world are buzzing with the last arrangements to join the initiative, either at Brussels headquarters or locally. Repubblica degli Stagisti - busy  with its own home event in Trento - has spoken to co-director of  Intern Aware Ben Lyons, 25, to find out the latest news from the main British campain for fair internships. Today is the first International Interns Day, with actions taking place in Europe, as well as New York City and Melbourne. How Intern Aware is going to partecipate?We will be going to the event in Brussels. As co-director of Intern Aware I am speaking at the conference "Presenting young people's best ideas and debate with decision makers" [Renaissance Hotel, Rue du Parnasse 19, 4.00 - 6.00, Ed. ]. There is goingo to be several MEPs, a representative from the American Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the British Chamber of Commerce, along with many youth organisations.You are bringing to the table one of your own best ideas, a four week limit to unpaid internships. What is it?We think the UK government should introduce a four week limit for unpaid internships and that the law should state this simple principle: if it is the case that an intern is a worker under a short period of time then they would still have the right to be paid, but after four weeks an intern have to be paid, and the law must be very clear about that.Which is the law currently regulating internships in the UK?The law which governs internships is the National Minimum Wage Act, which was created in 1998, before internships were widespread in the UK, so it doesn't really work. Although most interns meet the legal criteria for being entitled to the status of workers, and thus receive the National Minimum Wage [the current rate for people over 21 is 6.70 pounds per hour, Ed.], they don't get paid. So how does an intern know if he is a worker? Because there is no clear and general guidance interns can't even be sure if the right to be paid stands or not. If they want to find out basically they need to formally accuse their employer of potentially breaking the law, but given that most people do internships to get a good reference or a job, nobody goes down that path. It's a problem the employment tribunal would need to determine, with the intervention of the HM Revenue and Customs, which is the government body supervising the enforcement of the tax policy. A four week limit would provide employers with greater clarity, as well as with interns. This is something that actually businesses support as well. We have polled on this and found that two thirds of business support the idea of a four week limit to unpaid internship, included some high profile businesses like Ernst&Young and PwC.Would the four week limit for unpaid internship apply also to students ?It wouldn't apply to internships that are part of a course, but it would apply if the person was a student and they were doing it outside the term time, whilst they are on holiday for example. The priority is making sure that interns who are out in the normal economy are paid, but it is really important that internships are affordable for everyone. How many unpaid internship do you estimate in the UK?The most recent assessment was done by a British think thank in 2010 and they estimated there were 100.000 unpaid internships.What is the average amount of expenses awaiting an intern in London, where the vast majoritiy of British internships take place?There is an estimate that came across at about a thousand pounds a month, which is really out of reach for most people. Does the NMW Act establish limits in terms of maximum age of interns and duration of internships?No, there are no such limits.How Intern Aware has been been working to support interns rights in the UK? We set up our first campaign back in 2010. The group was founded by me and friend Gus Baker at university and it came about from the two of us being really angry at the state of unpaid internship in the country. We set up a Facebook page calling for interns to be paid the National Minimum Wage and thousands of people joined in a very short base of time. Initially our focus was on raising awareness about the issue and try to change public opinion - and there has been a good amount of success on that. According to one of our polls, 85% of people in the Uk think that interns should be paid the minimum wage and 2% of people disagree with that. That was a first part of the campaign.What about the others?Then we worked to try to change the attitude of businesses, both supporting legal actions against businesses eluding the NMW - we helped in terms to go to the Court, or to claim back their pay, also some quite big, powerful companies like The Harrods - and showing why it would make sense to pay their interns, to get the best people instead of getting a minority who can afford to work for free, for example. A third element of the campaign has been around building support amongst the government. We persuaded the government  to increase the fines for internships who are not paid the NMW. The response has been encouraging, but of course there is still a lot to be done, starting from the four week limit to unpaid internships. Annalisa Di Palo