Many internships for unemployed young people in EU are still unpaid

For pupils and students in the EU countries, doing an internship as a preparation for finding a job is becoming increasingly important. The percentage of young people who have completed an internship has increased significantly over the past ten years, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) concludes after new research. 

The EU Auditors also point out that a third of internship positions are still unpaid. This poses a problem for some young people who have to refuse an internship because they cannot afford it. As a result, it is sometimes difficult for disadvantaged young people to enter the labor market through an internship.

Research in the Netherlands last year showed that almost half of the students who did an internship (44 percent) did not receive any compensation for it. Reimbursement was granted least often in the education sector, followed by healthcare.

Employers disagree with unions and youth organizations on mandatory internship compensation, and the EU countries apply different rules. The new CEFR analysis focuses mainly on trainees in the labor market, rather than on trainees doing internships as part of their studies.

Ten years ago, EU countries established non-binding recommendations setting out a number of minimum requirements for high-quality internships, including learning objectives, a written agreement, fair working conditions and reasonable duration. These are currently being adapted to the current state of play, but according to the auditors the definition of “traineeship” still varies considerably between Member States. In sixteen Member States there is not even a legal definition of what an internship exactly entails.

The auditors estimate that up to 3.7 million young people do internships every year. Two-thirds of interns surveyed found a job within six months of completing an internship. 

The EU countries are themselves responsible for education and employment. However, in the area of social policy, the EU has the right to propose legislation, for example guidelines. However, internships are not governed by EU regulations, and not all Member States follow the recommendations on internships. 

The EU provides funding for internships. For example, the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative help disadvantaged young people integrate into the labor market and finance around 270,000 traineeships every year. 

In addition, bieden Erasmus+ and other EU funds support cross-border internships. Every year, approximately 90,000 young people do such an internship.