Empowerment of exploitation?

Italy’s job market big on interns

Editorial Staff
November 3, 2005

To work or not to work, that is the question. They’re young, talented, and very prepared academically. They’re everywhere. They’re interns. Officially for the purpose of learning the tricks of the trade, internships are said to provide a tiny island of “safety” in a world of precarious professional collaborations and temporary contracts. Current statistics show that 29 percent of Italians get their first ‘job’ as an intern. Oftentimes, internships become their second and third job offers as well.  The Treu Law, which regulates the sector, has established a 12-month maximum duration limit for any internship and rigorously states that the only compensation workers may receive for their labours is the reimbursement of untaxed expenses, but even that token of “appreciation” is not mandatory. Interns enjoy none of the standard workers’ benefits applicable in Italy.


The principle, of course, is a valid one. Take a young person and teach him the ropes and all the things he couldn’t possibly have learned behind his desk at school. 45 percent of internships end in a job offer within the company. “The system is good, and it works,” says Paolo Citterio, president of the National Association of Personnel Directors. “Of course, it’s also true,” he adds, “that many companies use interns in a distorted way, but we don’t think it happens in more than 15 percent of all cases considered.”


Frustrated interns do not always agree: “We’re like oranges to be squeezed and then thrown out,” one intern commented. Still, most young people believe that, whether they are exploited or not, an internship is the only way to establish some contact with industries in their sector of interest. How many internships does it take before they find a job? 26 percent of those interviewed by the Association for Human Resources Directors find employment after their first stage. For 14 percent of new workers it takes two. 32 percent of those who did their intern-time have yet to find employment.

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