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Safrea remains opposed to unpaid internships in any form

After a spate of national unpaid internship offers, and the resulting debate on social media in South Africa, the Southern African Freelancers' Association (Safrea), as a representative of media freelancers and a healthy student membership category, clarifies its stance on the matter.
Safrea remains opposed to unpaid internships in any form
© Katarina Gondova –

"Safrea is strenuously opposed to unpaid internships," says Clive Lotter, chairperson of Safrea. "It is widely accepted that it is exploitative for organisations to benefit from the professional activities of suitably qualified individuals without compensating them fairly for their work. While the experience and workplace understanding gained might be invaluable to the intern, a company should not be able to allocate a portion of its entry level work to free labour."

He explains that unpaid - or poorly paid - internships are also a way of propagating the cycle of privilege and excluding those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is a growing movement away from this practice globally, as only interns with considerable financial support at home can afford to work free - support that is usually limited to the privileged upper echelons of society.

These internships are doubly exploitative if they require interns to have their own transport or computer.

"This exploitation is even less palatable in South Africa, where its legacy means that those who are most economically disadvantaged are black people. A situation where a suitably qualified individual would have to donate his or her time, as well as find transport and equipment to serve the needs of an organisation, is unfair and flies in the face of transformation."

He adds that it is important to note that while many media professionals working today might have, themselves, benefited from the experience gained by 'paying their dues' in unpaid internships, times have changed and social consciousness has evolved. "It is no longer considered acceptable to further perpetuate and entrench privilege either professionally or socially," he concludes.

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