No more unpaid internships?

June 18, 2013, 3:45 PM GMT+0

Americans feel interns should be entitled to at least some compensation, but still think the intern experience is beneficial to interns and oppose government regulation of it

Internships, when young people spend a period working for a company to gain work experience and contacts, have become increasingly popular in recent years. While it is now common for unpaid interns to do work that paid employees once did, a new federal court ruling may change that.

Last week, a Manhattan court ruled in favor of two unpaid interns who worked on the production of the movie Black Swan, requiring the producers to pay them back wages for the work they did, a precedent which some predict may change the future of unpaid internships.

New YouGov research reveals that the majority of Americans support compensating interns at least a little. When asked what they think the minimum amount interns should be paid is, 48% say the minimum wage, while another 18% believe they should be compensated for basic expenses like travel. 16%, on the other hand, think that there should be no minimum amount.

Even while Americans support compensating interns, they don't think internships are just entry level jobs by another name. When asked who benefits from internships, a majority of Americans (61%) say that interns do.

Still, in the eyes of Americans, it is companies who come out better, at least slightly. For the question of who benefits the most from the internship, the intern or the company, 28% say the company, while 12% say the intern. 49% think they benefitted equally.

And although the judicial branch has intervened on the matter, Americans generally take a laissez-faire attitude towards the regulation of internships. 50% of Americans agree with the statement, "If companies want to take on interns, and young people are happy to work for little or no money to get a foot on the ladder, then the government has no business interfering". Only 22% find an opposing statement closer to their view: "Internships give an unfair advantage to young people whose parents have good contacts or who can afford to work for free, the government should intervene to give young people with fewer advantages an equal chance."

This is the mirror opposite of a poll done in the United Kingdom in 2011. 30% of Britons agreed with the first statement, while 53% preferred the latter.

Government regulation or not, the judge in the Black Swan internship court case cited a six-point test based on the Fair Labor Standards Act to determine whether or not an internship can qualify to be unpaid. It includes provisions which require the experience to be of an educational nature and that the intern does not replace regular employees.

You can find the full results here.

Not yet a member of YouGov? Make your opinion count by joining today!