For any graduating university student, breaking into the workforce is an increasingly arduous task.
As baby boomers opt to work into retirement and vacant positions are lost to attrition cuts, the supply of entry-level workers has outgrown demand and underemployment is on the rise.
The saturated job market has enabled employers to cut down on training costs by (ironically) requiring past work experience for entry-level positions.
For the graduating students facing this Catch-22 of requiring experience to get experience, work internships are often the only way forward.
As demand for internships has skyrocketed, so has the prevalence of unpaid internships. Businesses no longer have to pay interns, though most could afford to. For every potential intern turned off by an unpaid position, there is another applicant willing and able to take the financial hit.
It is unreasonable that businesses pay interns the legal minimum wage for work previously done by entry-level positions. Unpaid internships give affluent students an edge in the labour market, as working-class students simply cannot afford to work for free.
Businesses need to take accountability for the institutionalized classism and ambiguous legality of taking advantage of young workers. Those businesses that truly cannot afford to pay interns should not hire interns at all.