“Unpaid intership: Experience or Exploitation”

"Unpaid intership: Experience or Exploitation"

Shanzay Saeed

ISLAMABAD, Aug 15 (APP)::The pursuit of internships Maheen Mirza, a BBA student from Narowal University, currently undergoing her internship at a National Financial Institute here, candidly shared her challenges with this scribe. She expressed, “The financial burden I impose on my parents is substantial. They already shoulder the costs of my fees, accommodation, meals, and other necessities.”

This unpaid internship, as Maheen Mirza describes it, feels like an extra burden. “I recall a day when I had to choose between dinner for the night and the funds to commute the next day,” she shared with a heavy heart.

“In 2021, my inaugural tryst with internship was an absolute delight,” quipped Sherry Tipu, an intern at KNAQ Enterprises, and studying Information Technology at Quaid e Azam University.

With a touch of sarcasm, she added, “I even mastered the art of being a top-notch coffee maker by the end of it.”

Sherry found herself subjected to a series of unrelated odd jobs at the workplace, underscoring the less-than-ideal nature of her experience.

Shiza Haider, from NUML’s International Relations department, shared her transformative experience of an unpaid internship at an Islamabad think tank. Starting with op-ed writing, she now boasts multiple publications in international journals.

She emphasized that two months at Islamabad Policy Research Institute outweighed her 16 years of theoretical education, highlighting the importance of internships in shaping one’s career.

Shiza advocated for engaging, scheduled, interactive, stipend-based programmes to empower Pakistan’s youth and to lessen their parents’ burden.

Faisal Bari, LUMS Economics Professor, highlights the catch-22 of entry-level jobs: they demand experience fresh graduates lack.

This fuels unpaid internships, burdening remote students with reverse economic debt. With 43% of internships unpaid, this culture reflects a collapsing economy.

Peer pressure and university mandates push students into roles where they’re reduced to menial tasks.

Limited opportunities, especially for remote students, sustain this exploitation.

This dilemma exposes a flawed capitalist system favoring the privileged. Unpaid internships perpetuate this. Interns by certain organizations are treated as replacements for regular employees, overlooking wage and experience disparities.

This complex issue reveals the flawed and unjust dynamics within the modern workplace, Bari concluded his expert opinion on the issue.

“I recall my first internship offer from a prestigious institute. I had triumphed over countless candidates, yet I had to decline.

The meagre compensation wouldn’t even cover my fuel expenses. I couldn’t burden my father,” shared Hassan Fahad, a resident of Attock.

According to Syed Raza Abbas, Director of Operations at Abbas Consultancy Services SMC Pvt Ltd, retaining interns as full-time staff post-internship is a challenge due to the existing workforce density. Furthermore, imparting comprehensive organizational insights within a short 1-2 month internship is unrealistic.

As regular employees delegate tasks to interns, acknowledging their shared experience, the need for societal awareness becomes evident.

This pervasive issue often goes unheard amidst missed opportunities.

Enthusiastic students aspiring to excel in Pakistan’s professional arena deserve encouragement, promotion, and fair compensation for their labour, regardless of minimal averages.

Organizations must redefine internship boundaries to create a positive experience that motivates every aspiring professional towards a promising future.

In the tapestry of internships, the struggles of students like Maheen, Sherry, Shiza and Hassan echo loudly—a testament to the inequalities faced by those from distant areas.

Their stories urge us to reevaluate and reshape the internship landscape, ensuring every student’s journey is marked by opportunity, not obstacle.

It’s time to bridge the gap, to create a realm of learning that knows no bounds and a future that holds promise for all.

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