Unpaid Internship is Slavery – The Issues with Unpaid Internship

“Internships are like girlfriends.
Everyone wants one, but not everyone has one.”

In this age where competitiveness is not just cut-throat but rather murderous, internships play a major role in adding sauce to a student’s profile. While projects and seminars might play the foundation role in adding value to a “zero-experience” profile, internships and part-time experience are the cherry toppings.

Further to that, recently many universities have added compulsory credit points for internships which has pushed the students to a “must-do” relationship with internships. Students look for the industry experience and credit points that come along with the internships and companies look for some cheap (mostly free) labour, even if for a few weeks. And that’s the beginning of the whole process of Unpaid Internships.

As someone from the industry and someone who has employed 20-30 interns over the past 5 years in my firm (all interns were paid for their work), I have seen this rapidly increasing trend of Unpaid Internships by other companies in the community. No matter what the experience of the intern be, I believe that time is of value for every person.

Some companies teach the intern more than they actually expect him to contribute to their working, but how many actually do that? And of such companies, it’s impossible to say that the interns contribute nothing. Every single employer takes in an intern for their own benefit, one way or the other. There’s no charity service.

That’s where the whole evil deadlock of unpaid internship begins. Most students have educational loans. The expenses of going to a new city and staying over for the internship, plus the travel expenses adds to the burden.


But since internships are a “necessity” for course completion, students are ready to do even that. Some companies understand this desperation and provide “Paid Internships” – where the student has to pay the company for the internship.


There are 3 major reasons why I feel unpaid internship is bad.

Bad for Students

  • Makes them undervalue their skills and sets a very low “market value” for their skill set.
  • The idea of companies providing experience during internship is nonsense. The student first has to pay lakhs of fees for his course, and then unless the company is actually providing a learning atmosphere to gain hands-on knowledge, there’s no value addition to the student. In most cases I have seen, students are given menial tasks like creating presentations or data entry.

Bad for Employers

  • Consider the basics of economics – you value what you pay for.  With no investment, there is no push from the company’s end for getting the best out of the individual or in helping them excel.
  • Plus, paid internships brings in a more diverse pool of applicants which betters the overall experience for your organization and your other employees

Bad for Economy

  • With entry level positions being taken up by interns, freshers find it difficult to get a job.
  • These unpaid internships takes away the work opportunities for the eligible many, contributes to increasing unemployment and devalues the skills of the labour force in the economy.

I agree that unpaid internships make sense when its a complete educational experience for the intern and the relation is more of a mentor-mentee framework, than one of an employer-employee. But rare few companies provide this kind of model.

In my experience of interviewing students, I have also found unpaid interns to be less employable, as most of them learn nothing – technical, managerial, creative or communicative, but have the air of completing a namesake internship.

So, for the many of you who would still have to suffice with Unpaid Internships, here’s some pointers I have for you-

  • Know what’s your role in the company as an intern before you take up the offer.
  • Ensure that in the process you will actually learn something beneficial and not be stuck with Data Entry.
  • Convey clearly to the company what your expectations are. You’re an intern. Not their slave.
  • Evaluate the whole scenario financially – accommodation, travel, food expenses etc.

That’s all I have at present to share with you. Hope you take the right decision and make the best out of the opportunity given, without undermining your skill set.



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