EU to clamp down on unpaid internships

The European Union is set to address the issue of unpaid internships and deceptive traineeships offered by unethical employers through a new directive, marking a significant legislative move. However, some critics argue that the directive falls short of providing adequate measures to combat this problem.

Nicolas Schmit, the EU commissioner for jobs and social rights, emphasizes the exploitation of young people by companies offering unpaid internships, highlighting the need to eliminate this practice to retain talented individuals within Europe.

However, Tea Jarc from the European Trade Union Confederation criticizes the directive for its lack of clarity and assertiveness in addressing unpaid internships. She stresses the necessity for unambiguous language to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

The EU estimates that there are approximately 3.1 million trainees in Europe, half of whom do not receive any payment. Despite the European Parliament’s overwhelming support for legislation banning most unpaid internships across the bloc, the directive proposed by the European Commission is deemed unclear by critics.

Regarding efforts to tackle deceptive traineeships, Jarc criticizes the reliance on labor authorities, citing their insufficient resources to effectively address violations in the labor market. Instead, she advocates for member states and employers to take responsibility for combating bogus traineeships.

The Young European Greens express disappointment with the European Commission’s proposal, calling it a betrayal to the youth and urging the EU to ban unpaid internships entirely. They argue that unpaid work amounts to exploitation, especially for those who lack financial support.

María Rodríguez Alcázar, the president of the European Youth Forum, also voices dissatisfaction with the proposal, stating that it fails to address the fundamental issue of fair pay and rights for trainees at work. Without binding rules on remuneration, she argues, the exploitation of young people in the labor market will persist.

The proposals aim to address labor shortages in various sectors, including IT, cybersecurity, solar power, and health, by engaging both young and older workers. While the EU does not have the authority to mandate minimum wage payments, the proposals seek to guarantee some form of payment and social benefits for trainees and interns, along with rigorous inspection systems to prevent exploitation by employers.

Overall, while the European Commission drafts the laws, member states and MEPs will scrutinize and negotiate the directive before reaching an agreement, a process that is likely to face challenges.

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