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Internships in London out of reach for most young people, TUC warns

Research published by the TUC suggests that almost four in five (78%) 18-34 year olds could not afford to live in London away from home as an unpaid intern.

With youth unemployment on the increase again, many young people desperate for a job see unpaid internships as their best chance of getting work. And many of the UK's most sought after internships are to be found in the capital within its many film, television and media companies.

But as the cost of living in London away from home is now in excess of £1,000 a month, unpaid internships in London are something that only young people from affluent families can even begin to consider, says the TUC.

When asked if they could afford to live away from home in London to take up an unpaid internship, only just over one in 10 (12%) of the 18-34 year olds questioned said they either definitely or probably had the money to be able to do so.

The research also found more than three in five (61%) definitely didn't have the means to live away from home in the capital to take up unpaid work, and a further 16% said they probably wouldn't be able to afford it.

Speaking later today at TUC annual young members conference, assistant general secretary Kay Carberry said: "This week unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds nudged towards the million mark again. With many youngsters finding it impossible to even get interviews for jobs, their lack of work experience means that they are losing out to older job hunters with more experience.

"Of course, internships can be a good thing - young people can get valuable experience and a route into a career - but all too often internships are about exploitation, staff being undercut, and employers benefitting from a huge pool of cheap and willing labour.

"The NUS says that a fifth of young people have done unpaid internships. But as this polling suggests there are few who can afford to work for nothing or for a pittance for any length of time. Internships are essentially a finishing school for the upper middle class - with exclusive access to key contacts, networks and opportunities in the top professions. That's unfair and it's bad for social mobility."

Commenting on the polling co-director of Intern Aware Gus Baker said: "These shocking statistics show that a generation is being let down by unpaid internships.

"With overwhelming majorities of young people not able to afford to work for free, the government needs to take real action now to enforce the national minimum wage law and make sure interns are paid."