Unpaid Interships Illegal?

Christine Whelan | Posted on 04/07/10

With the unemployment rate at 16% for workers age 20 to 24, the "feds have instead decided to launch a campaign to crack down on unpaid internships that regulators claim violate minimum-wage laws" writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial today. 

"If you're a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren't going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law," the Labor Department's Nancy J. Leppink tells the New York Times.

There's already excess of labor, say the paternalists. This pits worker against worker.

OK, obviously we don't want corporations to be in the habit of not paying people for work, but there should be some carve-outs for young people seeking job experience in one of the toughest economies since the Great Depression.

Said the Atlantic in an uber-depressing (but eye-opening) article on the impact of long-term unemployment on young-adults: "A whole generation of young adults is likely to see its life chances permanently diminished by this recession."

One way to lessen the long-term blow? Allow college student to do unpaid summer internships. Allow just-out-of-college newbies to cut their teeth and invest in their human capital at companies that otherwise wouldn't hire right now.

Because when the economy rebounds, it's those precious lines on a resume-that experience and hard work-that's going to get them good paying jobs for the future.

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