If young people really want to see an end to unpaid internships, they must all refuse to work for free whatever their economic background, it has been suggested.

Libby Page, a serial intern now in her final year studying journalism at the London College of Fashion, also appeared to suggest that by continuing to agree to do unpaid internships, wealthier graduates were selfishly locking out their poorer peers from the most competitive professional industries. In a post for the Guardian’s Blogging Students, Libby described how after seven unpaid internships she had finally run out of money and had enough of working for free:

“Government support is essential in bringing an end to the epidemic of unpaid working, but interns have a role to play too.

“…When I talk to students about unpaid internships, one common response is: ‘But I don’t mind working for free.’ What I hear is: ‘I can afford to work for free.’

“…If I were to take on unpaid work now, I would be very aware that, by doing so, I am not just saying that I don’t deserve a wage, but that my peers and friends don’t either.

“For every person who can work for free, there are so many who simply cannot afford to. This means that they are being shut out of many careers where internships are an essential part of your CV.

“..Students and graduates need to stand firm on this issue. We may not have the benefit of paid employment, but we do have voices, and we should be using them.”

At Graduate Fog, we never blame graduates for taking unpaid internships — we know you only do it because you feel you have no choice.

We also feel it can be dangerous to make this issue one of “rich grads v poor grads” as that is too simplistic. Many of you tell us you can afford to work for a month unpaid, but not three. Or three months, but not six). Worse still, pitting graduates against each other distracts everyone from the fact that it is the employers who are the bad guys here, not graduates who take these unpaid internships (or even their parents who may help set them up, as Deputy PM Nick Clegg believes).

Or do you think we’re being too soft on graduates who take unpaid internshps? Does Libby have a point — that the time has come for graduates to help themselves – and show greater solidarity among graduates from all economic backgrounds? After all, if you all simply refused to work for free, surely the would the problem be solved instantly. Or do you think Libby is only attacking those who take unpaid internships now because she’s run out of money and can’t afford to work for free anymore?

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