An intrepid ex-intern finally states the obvious—that internships are illogical, unfair and potentially dangerous to an already precarious economic system.
In the business and political worlds, interns have been around long time, making copies, fetching coffee and occasionally inciting scandals that call for the impeachment of influential elected officials. But, as Perlin deftly points out in his well-reasoned narrative, the number of unpaid interns in the workforce has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a bizarre, vicious economic cycle. Put simply, since the economic crash of 2008, there are fewer jobs than there have been for the better part of the century, which means scores of graduates who can't find work but need experience. As this talented, educated workforce arrives willing to work for free, employers are saving tremendous amounts of money (to the tune of $600 million per year), and therefore have even less incentive to create paid jobs, thus creating an even bigger void for the next crop. The logic here is certainly not earth-shattering, but the actual numbers are staggering. Another seemingly obvious but thus far uninvestigated point is the issue of the law. With so many fair-labor laws on the books, Perlin examines how it is legally possible that nearly half of 2008 college graduates have jobs with no pay or health benefits—he discovers that most are not entirely legal and certainly violate the spirit of the law. This point becomes particularly sticky because interns lack not only compensation, but also basic protections guaranteed by the same labor laws, essentially giving them no legal rights as workers—this adds complexity to an argument that can at times feel repetitive.
That fact that it took this long for someone to write this book seems as blatantly wrong as the practice itself. Perlin provides a welcome, long-overdue and much-needed argument.