Work is bad enough when you’re getting paid for it, so who would do it for free? People that are coerced, right? Some are coerced by the hope of achieving of a better position, and others are coerced by the hope of not being executed in a horrifying old-world-y way because of their debt… So how different are unpaid internships and indentured workers?
See Also: Internship Horror Stories
So, something that is painfully comparable in both indentured workers and unpaid interns is that both groups take out cripplingly large loans in the hopes of a better life. For the indentured their loans were in exchange for passage from Europe to the New World (the Americas). The sea captains that brought the indentured to the New World colonies would sell these people to landowners and craftspeople as laborers and after their dues were paid the indentured individuals would be free to work on their own…theoretically. In reality, these people would often be sold off to other landowners that would “renew” their loans thus making it impossible to actually achieve freedom.
College students/graduates on the other hand although not obligated to work for the person that bought their loan, usually accept whatever job they can to pay off the debt they incurred for their education for a specific period of time dependent on their size of their loan...theoretically. Because new graduates often find themselves in a Catch 22+, (I’ll explain the plus in a second) they need a job to pay their loans, but most jobs even entry level ones need experience (which is not something you have if you spent the last four to six years of your life in college…I thought that was what college was for, so you don’t need the experience, but I digress).
That’s what the Catch 22 the plus is. Your loans are incurring penalties, and the interest is increasing when you don’t pay them. So, to add the cherry on top of this mentally crippling horrifying sundae, a young graduate now has to decide if he/she wants to: be underemployed or work for experience and no pay, in the hopes that this will help them get a better paying job in the field of their studies.
Some of the “luckier” indentured workers would be bought by craftspeople who would use them as free labor but also allow them to apprentice in the craft. If that sounds uncannily familiar with something else, then you a bit slow, because the entire article (including the title for Pete’s sake) is about the comparison between unpaid internships and indentured workers. Yes, students that participate in indentured servitude…I mean unpaid internships do exactly that, they exchange their time and labor for the chance to work and learn about the industry they would like to work in.
It’s eerily similar and tragically anachronistic; companies have unfortunately set up a system in which one must provide the industry with free labor to be allowed entrance into it for more opportunities and the promise of wealth. Kind of like the price one would have to pay to travel to a country (or countries) with more opportunities and the promise of wealth.
How do you think unpaid internships compare to indentured servitude? Let us know in the comment section below.