Comment Is Not Free

This post was written by Dave on February 25, 2009
Posted Under: Charity,Class,Economy,Education,Media

Were it not so tragic, it would be funny.  Below is a copy of a job advert that I recently came across again when throwing out some old papers.  I cut it out last year as part of what is my seemingly endless search for some work that doesn’t involve in some way raping the masses and/or selling them a placebo for the pain afterwards.


Like many fellow Arts graduates with a semi-messianic belief in their own ability and their own politics, since graduating I have thus far steadfastly refused to join my saner friends who are now earning £40,000 a year working for Bain and Co.  It is not enough, I contend, to be concerned with social justice as you read your paper on the way to work, then spending the next eight hours of each day charging people £35 for going twenty pence over their overdraft limit.  “All that it takes for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing,” etc.


Doing nothing, however, is exactly what I am currently doing.  Not for want of trying; not for want, I would like to think, of qualifications, and certainly not for a want of wanting.  Rather, the reason I cannot get a stable job in ‘something worthwhile’ would seem to be that I simply cannot afford it – just like I cannot afford to do a law conversion course, or a masters degree, or to explore one of the many other limited avenues that many people like me, despite our priveleged education, have already resigned ourselves from.  I would now like to add the liberal media, many charities, NGOs, a host of  well-meaning political organizations, progressive think-tanks and even trade unions to this list of shame.

The concept of unpaid internships as a way into any profession – although no doubt useful to the employer – is a disgrace and should outlawed. When my fellow esteemed bloggers and I were at university, many of us cut our teeth as young political activists in the fight for fairer access to Higher Education, partially because of our belief that it was essential to the creation of a truly meritocratic job market in the future.  Sadly, it will have absolutely no effect. 

Yesterday, I sat down and figured out an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM that I could just about afford to get by on in London per month.


Rent £390 

Utilities £35           

Council Tax £20

Food £75  

Travel £99.10

Phone £15

TOTAL                 £634.10


Thus before any well-meaning young graduate steps foot outside their door each morning (or pretends to have any semblance of a social life at night) in order to be able to pursue a worthwhile career, many employers insist that they are supported by their parents to the tune of at least £7,500 a year.  Shame on you: the BBC, left-wing Labour MPs, Liberty, CND, Reprieve and the Co-Operative Party, to name just a few.  The reality of your recruitment practices make a mockery of the values you espouse.  And class, once again, has been willfully neglected in favour of PC, achieve-nothing ‘equal opportunities’ bullshit blurb.  Don’t be surprised when your organisations and policies stumble blindly towards bland, middle-class, London-centric, apologetic  mediocrity.

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Reader Comments


Dave, great post. Very good points, made in an entertaining way. In terms of a solution, I think Scotland ‘may’ offer a benefit to do internships. I think this is a good idea, the Government putting money where it’s mouth is on volunteering. I managed to scrounge housing benefit by shifting the savings I had (given to me by my nan who had saved when working as a cleaner) to my parent’s bank account. Dishonest? Yes, but it is the only way I could afford to do the Internship. So why not instead have a UK-wide scheme providing grants for internships.

Written By David on February 26th, 2009 @ 8:26 am

Agree wholeheartedly. On a related note, what is the point in a concerted drive to get minorities and students from economically deprived families into top ten educational institutions if they can’t use their degree, once they graduate, to get into any field other than financial or legal services because anything else requires a lengthy unpaid internship for which affluent parents are a prerequisite?

Written By Jack on February 26th, 2009 @ 11:26 am

David – thanks for your comments. I agree completely with as regards your comments about your situation when you were volunteering at Oxfam whilst on benefits. “Don’t hate the player… hate the game” etc. But I don’t feel that government sponsored internships are neccessarily the answer. It may be, in a few very specific cases for small charities etc., but I feel that ‘internships’ have now just become another method whereby large organisations undercut their costs illegitimately.

Even if a nominal fee, like the living wage, were paid for this what is often very skilled and tiresome work, it would then legitimise the practice a whole lot more. As it stands there is no accreditation; often no clear end point; no certified advantage to employees other than the informal relationships they form; no guarantee of a job or other prospects at the end; and – ultmiately – no absolutely no pay. If the work needs to be done and is done well, employers themselves should pay for it.

Written By Dave on February 26th, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

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