European Quality Charter on Internships – An Update

The last and only time we mentioned the European Quality Charter on Internships was in December… 2007. It was promised for 2008. Not surprisingly perhaps, it is still nowhere to be seen, but a symbolic milestone was crossed this month when members of the European Parliament (a deliberative body with mild powers but the weight of democratic legitimacy for the European Union) reminded the Council (executive branch) and Commission (executive branch too!) of their promise. This should put to rest the idea that it is an Anglo-American problem:

“Traineeships are part of education and must not replace real jobs,” insisted Turunen, stressing that it was high time for the Commission to act.

The idea of a charter was triggered by youth organisations, which see a worrying trend developing in the midst of the crisis, whereby employers are hiring trainees to reduce costs.

The practice of recruiting interns instead of employees, without labour law protection and often with no or very limited financial compensation, limits young people’s chances of being fully integrated into society, said YFJ Secretary-General Giuseppe Porcaro.

“Especially in times of crisis, the lack of legal requirements or clear quality guidelines and educational schemes may lead to exploitation and precariousness that is undermining the main aim of the internships: to be an educational experience,” Porcaro added.

Even the original resolution describes the problem:

C.   whereas employers seem to be using traineeships and internships more frequently to replace regular employment, thereby exploiting the obstacles to entering the labour market faced by young people; whereas such forms of exploitation of young people need to be addressed and effectively eradicated by Member States

And here’s what the MEPs are asking:

21.  Calls for better and secured internships; calls on the Commission and the Council, following the commitment given in Communication COM(2007)0498 “to propose an initiative for a European quality charter on internships”, to set up a European Quality Charter on Internships setting out minimum standards for internships to ensure their educational value and avoid exploitation, taking into account that internships form part of education and must not replace actual jobs. These minimum standards should include an outline of the job description or qualifications to be acquired, a time limit on internships, a minimum allowance based on standard-of-living costs in the place where the internship is performed that comply with national traditions, insurance in the area of their work, social security benefits in line with local standards and a clear connection to the educational programme in question;

Most interestingly, they also ask the Commission to track statistics on internships. That’d be nice.

See you in two years and a half for another walk in the courtyard, European Charter!

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