Unpaid Internships: A Delicate Balance of Opportunity and Exploitation

Aug 05, 2021 3 Min Read
experience check
Unpaid Internships - Is it worth it?

Unpaid internships, a gateway to professional experience or an exploitation of eager individuals seeking a foothold in their chosen industries? The debate surrounding the value and ethics of unpaid internships is both nuanced and persistent. While they offer invaluable insights and hands-on training, they also raise questions about fairness and socio-economic disparities. In this exploration, we will delve into the pros and cons of unpaid internships, seeking to understand whether the experience they provide is truly worth the sacrifice of financial compensation.

The Pros:

Experience and Skill Development

Unpaid internships often provide unparalleled opportunities for hands-on experience. Interns get to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, honing their skills and gaining a practical understanding of their chosen field.

Networking Opportunities

Internships, even unpaid ones, can be a gateway to valuable professional connections. Building a network during an internship can open doors to future job opportunities, mentorship, and collaborations.

Resumé Enhancement

A stint as an intern, particularly in a reputable organisation, can significantly boost one's resume. Employers often value practical experience over academic qualifications, and internships can serve as a testament to an individual's commitment and capability.

Industry Insights

Unpaid internships offer a glimpse into the inner workings of an industry, allowing interns to understand the dynamics, challenges, and trends. This firsthand knowledge can be crucial in making informed career decisions.

Monetary rewards yield a significant positive impact on a person simultaneously as an incentive towards their work productivity and efficiency. It is a win-win situation. Happy and comfortable work life, you will gain a competent and content employee.

All workers deserve pay, whether they're fetching coffee or designing a webpage for a company.

Most job seekers are doing internships for income or pocketing the extra cash. Furthermore, the rise and normalisation of the 'unpaid internship' phenomenon by companies and corporations wherein they disenfranchise job seekers (particularly those in need of money to make ends meet) can be dubbed as exploitation and forced labour.

Let’s deep-dive on the cons.

The Cons:

Financial Strain

The most evident drawback of unpaid internships is the financial strain they impose on individuals. Many aspiring professionals find it challenging to sustain themselves without compensation, leading to a system that favours those with the financial means to work for free.

Exploitation Concerns

Some argue that unpaid internships perpetuate a system of exploitation, taking advantage of young professionals desperate for a chance to enter the job market. The work done by interns, if substantial, should be duly compensated to avoid contributing to the cycle of inequality.

Limited Diversity

The financial barriers to entry presented by unpaid internships contribute to a lack of diversity within industries. This limitation can hinder the development of a well-rounded and representative workforce.

Questionable Legalities

In some jurisdictions, the legality of unpaid internships is under scrutiny. Laws regarding intern compensation vary, and some argue that unpaid internships may violate labour laws, further fuelling the debate on their ethical implications.


The question of whether unpaid internships are worth it is complex and multifaceted. While they undoubtedly offer valuable experiences, the ethical concerns surrounding exploitation and limited access cannot be ignored. Striking a balance between providing opportunities for skill development and ensuring fair compensation is crucial for fostering a diverse and inclusive professional landscape. As we navigate this delicate terrain, both employers and policymakers need to reconsider the structures surrounding unpaid internships, aiming for an equitable and enriching experience for all.

Just as there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's no such thing as a free intern to fetch you that lunch.

Ending this insightful and somehow striking chord piece with an evocative sentiment from our very own Senior Editor, Kiran:

There is an argument Robert Kiyosaki used when he faced a situation when he had to kill a Vietnamese boy during the war. Legally he could. But morally and ethically, he just couldn't kill. The same thing can be said for any company. Be human and do the morally right thing. For such reasons, big corporations who have funds allocated for CSR work should reflect whether what they are doing with their unpaid intern is morally sound!!

Read more: 5 Pros and Cons About Taking On an Internship as a Student

Check out an insightful and remarkable TedTalk about rallying against Unpaid Internships:

Share This



Rabi'ah Mutalip is the Partnership Manager of Leaderonomics.com editorial work. She is an extroverted-introverted bookworm trying to find her place in this world. Connect with her via LinkedIn if you are interested in publishing your work on our website!

You May Also Like

college girl thinking what to do before college

What You Need To Know Before Starting College

In this article, Kenneth Raj Samuel exposes the dirty truth about life before college and what you need to do to succeed in life. Read this unfiltered expose on what you need to do to succeed in college and in life.

Jul 01, 2019 1 Min Read

Few Gen-Zs at work

How to Hire, Motivate, and Retain Gen-Z In Work

Aaron Dason, Lead at M.A.D. Movement speaks on what employers and business leaders need to know about the younger generation when it comes to incentivising and motivating them.

Sep 18, 2023 28 Min Podcast

Acing Debates

Acing A Debate: 7 Easy Steps for Debate Newbies

Ace Your Debate by understanding these 7 Easy Steps. If you are a newbie to debates, this is a MUST watch video on acing debates. Learn to be great at debates

Feb 23, 2022 9 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader