European Parliament votes to ban unpaid internships across EU

European Parliament votes to ban unpaid internships across EU
Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

Unpaid internships are one step closer to being banned in the EU as the European Parliament called for new rules to avoid the exploitation of trainees and voted in favour of the Quality Traineeship report on Wednesday.

The Parliament stipulates that minimum quality standards should be set and that traineeships should be "adequately compensated," covering as a minimum the cost of basic living necessities such as food, housing, and transportation – taking into account the cost of living in each Member State.

"This vote is a decisive step that will help more young people from diverse backgrounds enter the labour market. The European Commission cannot betray young people now; it is time for binding legislation that will ban unpaid internships for good," Board Member of the European Youth Forum Mark McNulty told The Brussels Times.

Research showed that it costs an average young person in Europe over €1,000 per month to do an unpaid internship – forcing young people to live on what researchers called a "Ramen noodles only budget."

The practice deepens inequality among young people coming from different social backgrounds, imposes unbearable costs on families, threatens the mental health of young people and creates unfair distortions of the labour market, they found.

McNulty stressed that decent jobs cannot be kept only for those whose parents can afford to pay their bills while they themselves work for free. "Young people deserve fair wages for their work and for their rights to be respected in the workplace. The Parliament’s vote validates that the majority of European citizens want to put an end to unpaid work."

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In January this year, the European Youth Forum called for a binding EU Directive to guarantee "quality, fair and paying working conditions" for internships in the open labour market. While this vote is not binding, McNulty is optimistic.

"This illustrates that there is definitely the ambition to create a directive," he said, adding that it is unsure how long the process will take. "But the Parliament has clearly given the Commission a mandate, so we hope it will be quite soon."

Additionally, the report also calls on EU Member States to make traineeships more accessible to persons with disabilities and to those from vulnerable backgrounds, as well as to encourage cross-border traineeships.

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