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    Posted September 20, 2011 by
    Brussels, Belgium
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
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    Brussels, City of Interns - Week 6


    Story outline:


    Problem: Numerous highly-skilled young Europeans do internships hoping to improve their chances of landing a job. A large part of these internships do not improve their skills or offer any social security benefits. Many organizations take advantage and use interns to replace full-time paid work. This puts young people at risk of poverty and deepens the problem of youth unemployment in Europe.


    -Cristina, 26, doing her third internship

    -Oana, 23, doing two internships in the same time to support herself.

    -Denisa, 26, managed to get a job at the end of her internship.

    -The European Youth Forum, largest platform of youth organizations in Europe, the author of a survey on internships.

    -One or two employers who hire interns.

    Possible solution:

    A legal framework for internships at European level that would protect young people against unfair use of their work.

    Development of the story:

    -Focus on the experiences of the three interns;

    -Enlarge the picture from these particular cases to a more general overview of internships in Europe provided by the survey of the European Youth Forum;

    - Present the point of view of employers;

    - Present the legal solution proposed by the European Youth Forum to protect interns in Europe


    Story lede and first paragraphs




    Instead of making a smooth transition from education to employment for young people, internships in Europe have replaced in many cases paid full – time work. Numerous organisations employing interns take advantage of young people’s need to work, even without a pay. The laws in many European countries do not clearly regulate internships, leaving young people to the mercy of employers. In some other countries, these laws are simply not respected.


    Opening paragraphs

    Denisa moved from Bucharest, Romania, to Brussels, Belgium, to work for a European project. When the project failed to secure funding, she found herself with no money and no social protection in the capital of Europe. “I spent three days not eating and going absolutely nuts. I was panicking and needed: a source of income as my account had around 30 Euros left in it, a place to live, as my temporary solution remained temporary, and a lot of support”, she recalls. After 15 internship applications, she was called in for an interview by a social media company. She got the internship. They offered her 500 Euros per month for a three months’ internship in the client delivery team plus. “My rent was 300 Euros and the other 200 were for food, transport and phone. For the next months I gave up 95% of my lifestyle, buried my anger and frustrations and just went on. I had no idea what was to come, but I somehow think I am genetically scheduled to simply keep going through whatever because "people who work hard get paid back" sooner or later. And she did. Denisa worked just like any other employee, having the same tasks and responsibilities as many of those being paid a few times more. After three months, she managed to make herself needed so badly and was offered her first legal, serious, well-paid contract in Belgium, which gave her the chance to obtain the legal right to reside in the country.


    Oana was not that lucky. She moved to Belgium to study cultural management and enrolled in a summer internship at an art gallery to gain some practical skills. But soon she realized that she had to survive somehow without the scholarship provided by the university during the school year. So she enrolled in a parallel internship. She works 8-10 hours a day for both and receives 1000 Euros per month, no social security benefits included. An internship following Belgian employment law would pay her a gross amount of 1400 Euros per month, with social security benefits included. But as a Romanian, she still needs a work permit in Belgium. Her employers have not struggled to obtain it, which makes Oana an illegal intern. She does not complain though. She is happy to have the chance to work in fields related to her studies, unlike many of her colleagues, who have summer jobs in ice-cream shops.

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