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The petition

On Wednesday, 21 November, Generation P presented its petition to the European Parliament for fair internships under the presence of EU-Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, several Members of the European Parliament and many interns.

List of Supporters


For fair “Internships” and proper access by young people into the European Labour Market

Our Requests

The above-outlined situation cannot be accepted. As experience demonstrates, the problem clearly has a cross-border and truly European dimension, even if the exact extent is not yet known due to a lack of statistical data. In order to limit and prevent the above-mentioned socio-economic consequences, which themselves conflict with the ideals of EU social policy, the internal market and competition, the labour market composed of internships needs to be limited drastically.

Therefore, we ask the European Parliament:

-  to request action by the European Union

  • to include internships generally in EU-statistics
  • to ask Member States to produce data on internships and, based on this,
  • to produce a comparative study on the different internship schemes existing in the EU-Member States


-to correct the negative impact of current internship schemes in the EU Member States by adopting European legal measures on minimal norms and standards for internships. These should include

  • a time limitation for internships
  • a local minimum wage
  • social security benefits according to local standards
  • and a clear connection to the educational programme in question


The situation

The structure of the labour market has changed dramatically in recent years, with difficult employment conditions becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the European Union (EU). Young people have been particularly impacted by this development. They have enormous problems in accessing the labour market and most often face onerous working conditions such as low wages, highly variable working times, limited social security etc.

One example where working conditions are often very precarious is the so-called “internship”. In France and Germany alone there are at least 1.5 million interns each year. Thus, projected to all EU Member States, there are several million interns working annually.

Certainly an internship before or during one’s studies can be a good means for students to practically apply theoretical knowledge gained at university, and to orientate oneself professionally. It may also increase an individual’s ability to integrate better into the labour market. A good and fair internship that provides these benefits as well as meeting the employer’s needs is limited in duration, provides appropriate compensation, is subject to social security standards and content-wise linked to one’s educational track (e.g. the study programme).

Unfortunately, very often internships fail to meet these conditions. Internships lose their educational character. Even worse, a good university diploma and a variety of internships during the studies no longer guarantee access to the labour market and to proper employment. According to a study of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), almost 40% of postgraduates perform internships. Half of the interviewees in the German HIS-study stated that their internship did not help them at all to get a proper job. Their tasks as interns are often equivalent to those of a normal employee, without equivalent compensation. 50% of postgraduate internships are not paid at all, according to the DGB-study. These so called internships are in fact simply regular, unpaid work classified as “internships” in order to avoid paying the regular salary, benefits and associated taxes.

Young people accept these difficult and unfair conditions because the circumstances oftentimes force them to do so. If they do not find proper employment but only these so called internships, they prefer them to unemployment. Increasingly, there are no alternatives as organisations - whether they be for-profit companies, the non-profit sector, or even the public sector - offer ever more internships instead of proper jobs. The effect has been the creation of an “internship labour market” in addition to the actual labour market in many countries within the European Union. Countries where the development is particularly worrying include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Austria. The European institutions and their lobbyists have also joined this bandwagon.

The socio-economic consequences are enormous and have a negative impact on the economies of the EU Member States. Due to the low or nonexistent salary, interns do not pay any taxes or social insurance contributions since they fall under the minimum wage. As companies employ more “interns” – at times outnumbering regular employees – competition on the European internal market is distorted. Moreover, the lack of buying power of those affected impacts the market negatively.

Finally, young people working in one of these so called “internships” cannot plan their future (e.g. family life) which aggravates Europe’s demographic problems. This often goes together with poverty, social problems and a pessimistic view on the benefits of European integration. In conclusion, the recent developments in internships constitute a real race to the bottom concerning the European social model.


  1. 800,000 in France according to the French Economic and Social Committee; this figure only includes internships of students; 600,000 in Germany according to the German Employment Agency; however, this figure only includes the internships occurring at one point in time during 2006, not the entire year.
  2. Grühn, D. et. al., February 2007, Generation Praktikum? Prekäre Beschäftigungsformen von Hochschulabsolventinnen und –absolventen. Berlin: DGB, p.6
  3. Briedis, K. & Minks, K.-H., April 2007, Generation Praktikum – Mythos oder Massenphänomen? HIS-Projektbericht.
  4. See Wesfreid, M., January 26, 2006, Stages – La grande loterie, Paris: L’Express.