The unemployment rate in Bangladesh was 5.30 per cent in 2020 which increased to 6 per cent the following year with COVID-19 hampering the economy. Keeping aside the numbers, the situation is really dire out there as youths are suffering from frustration and uncertainty in the job market.
The situation, as it seems, getting a decent job is becoming a luxury. And a section of the job market is taking advantage of this desperate situation of the youngsters who are looking for an opportunity to prove themselves.
As the job market requires somewhat experience along with skills, fresh graduates looking for internships to fill that experience quota. That is where employers exploit youth energy and talent with little to no remuneration in the name of internships.
Well, does it affect the undergraduate students only? The answer would be no. There is a tendency to take anyone for granted if it is noticed that someone is doing something charging much less than the expected standard.
As students can do nothing but accept unpaid internships, because if one doesn’t accept, another will, in the process they give the employers floor to ask for more and more skills and experiences against comparatively lesser money.
It is, nowadays, common to see many corporate and multinational companies are looking for fresh graduates with extraordinary sets of working skills and at least one to two years of experience while not even offering five figures of remuneration.
Who gave them this opportunity to exploit the youth? Unfortunately, the answer would be the youths themselves who are nothing but desperate to do anything to have an upper hand in the job market.
"The travel cost, it was like I was investing in the company," Tazmee Zinat, an undergraduate student who had done an unpaid internship, said to the writer, reminiscing her own experience.
"Yes, they (students) are being exploited, as they are working for the sake of gathering experiences which many companies require. At least, give them the travel cost as well as a better working environment," she added.
Unpaid internships are also costing job opportunities for full-time workers as the employers are getting workers without costing a dime. They prefer taking 2/3 interns for free instead of one full-time employee.
Clearly, this contributes to the increase in the unemployment rate as internships cannot be called employment in the sense that it's just working for 3-6 months without earning anything at all. And after the internship period is done, employers can easily take new interns for another cycle.
Even people who are in the corporate field for a long time and allow interns to grow in their organisations, feel that the current unpaid internship is not healthy.
"My company believes that everyone should be paid if they work in this company. An unpaid internship is not a good practice in the current situation," said Al Arafat Patoary, Head of Operations, Lie to Eye–a renowned advertising agency.
"I think, there is a gap between current employers' thoughts and newcomers' expectations. This generation Z expects a better life through their profession and we should motivate them by taking care of their lifestyle expectations.”
“It can be remuneration, food, good work environments, development opportunities, etc. This is high time to go with the new vision and perceptions towards new employment processes," he emphasised.
The writer conducted an online poll where more than 250 people voted. Around 97 per cent of participants believe that our corporate unpaid internship culture is outright exploitation.
Unpaid internship is nothing but a cost-cutting method for organisations. Eventually, this might lead to a decrease in the number of entry-level jobs.
As you can have 3-4 fresh graduates every 3/6 months without paying anything, why bother recruiting someone with a fixed salary?