Germany: Real Work for No Money

A mentioned before here, Germany is tackling the issue of unfair internships at the government level more seriously than any other country at the moment. Frankly, this article could have been written by yours truly.

I think what’s most important in the German approach is that it recognizes that interns are doing real work. There’s still a perception in some other countries, especially the US, that interns are making photocopies and coffee while it’s an old cliché.

New debate has broken out about German companies using interns who are poorly paid, if they’re paid at all, to do work that once was done by full-time staff.

The German Minister of Labour:

“Internships are useful, but there’s been some abuse and we have to do something about it,” he told reporters.

The government may be acting because of the severity of the problem there:

“There’s a general culture of doing more and more internships and it’s very problematic,” said former intern Neye. “Employers see you after you’ve finished your degree these days and say ‘why have you only done five internships and not 10?'”

A reasonable proposal:

Rudolf of the DGB trade union group wants to see a three-month time limit placed on internships, pay requirements, and a clear understanding of what an internship is. It should be a learning relationship with a company, not a pure work relationship. If the firm wants that, they should go out and hire somebody, he said.

Let’s hope other countries will take the problem seriously.

3 Responses to Germany: Real Work for No Money

  1. Monica says:

    Back in the mists of time (20 years to be exact), I did a 6-month internship for Daimler Benz in Stuttgart. Daimler had dorm-like, affordable accommodation available (or you could rent elsewhere on your own). While I didn’t become rich off the internship, I could support myself comfortably, with enough money for jaunts around the country. I got 10 days paid vacation for the six months, plus health insurance. (Eye exam and contact lenses, 4DM. I was stunned!)

  2. Monica says:

    The above was an example of a good internship, financially. On the downside, I didn’t learn very much related to the field, but my German improved greatly and it looked great on the resume. Locally, I could NOT afford an “elite” internship at a well-known PR agency because it was unpaid. I suspect I would have learned a great deal, but I couldn’t afford to do it for free. As someone struggling to both support myself and put myself through college (with some help from my parents), I just couldn’t afford to work for free, let alone PAY to work for free. (HUH?!) It’s ironic that, despite airfare, I still came out way ahead financially interning in Germany than in Detroit (I know).

  3. exintern says:

    Hi Monica and thanks for sharing your experience. Your internship experience sounds like a fair one and should probable have been called a job, especially since it wasn’t much of a learning experience, according to what you say. It make me wonder how much things have worsened in the past 20 years, in Germany or anywhere else. Unfortunately, I’m not aware that proper statistics are tracking this phenomenon at the moment. Have a good day.

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