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The Harm Caused by Unpaid Internships

In the United Kingdom, a group of MPs has called for a ban on unpaid arts internships.

This has long been a major problem in the arts industry that has gone unaddressed in the United States. It is nearly impossible to land a job at a major arts organization without the connections and references earned during a yearlong internship, and they're almost all unpaid.

On the surface, unpaid internships seem win-win: the intern gains valuable experience and connections that will land them a job, and the organization receives free labor that would otherwise require them to hire an employee.

But even setting aside the ethics of requiring a year of indentured servitude, this reality drives away hardworking, intelligent people who can't afford to work for a year without pay.

The unintended consequence is this: the leadership ranks of the performing arts are largely limited to those who come from a family background that allows this opportunity.
How many valuable voices are we unintentionally banning from our stage with this tradition?

Chris MyersComment