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Mapping Unpaid Work Experience in Australia: Prevalence, nature and impacts

Project Member(s): Oliver, D.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Department of Employment (Department of Jobs and Small Business) (Department of Employment)

Start year: 2016

Summary: Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that internships and other forms of unpaid work experience are becoming increasingly common in Australia. Numerous studies, including a 2013 report for the Fair Work Ombudsman and a 2014 NSW parliamentary inquiry, have highlighted the risks associated with a growth in such arrangements. Those risks include: • exploitation of interns and their lack of protection by current workplace relations legislation • inequality of access to learning opportunities that well-structured internships may provide • displacement of paid employees in favour of unpaid labour • variable quality, in terms of learning opportunities for the development of skills and capacities considered desirable by employers • high costs of undertaking some forms of unpaid work experience, including self-funded insurance and the use of internship brokers, and • for low SES young people in particular, a significant burden in combining study, unpaid work experience and paid work to cover living costs. However there is no current existing, reliable, national data on the prevalence or quality of internships in Australia. Our proposal is to conduct a nationally representative online survey of working-age Australians to measure the prevalence of unpaid work experience in Australia, their characteristics and their impact on employment outcomes.

Keywords: youth employment, internships, work integrated learning

FOR Codes: Labour Economics, Industrial Relations, Management of Education and Training Systems, Micro Labour Market Issues