Working for free? Unpaid internships in London cost £926 a month

Jessica Morris
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31% of university graduates working as interns are doing so for no pay, according to the Sutton Trust. (Source: Getty)

Every year thousands of young people toil away in unpaid internships, hoping to enter the increasingly crowded jobs market. They're seen as a necessity in industries such as journalism, graphic design, fashion and even some financial services roles.

But for many, they're simply unaffordable, according to a report from the Sutton Trust, which had crunched university data and government wage stats.

In fact, an unpaid internship in London would require £926 a month, totalling £5,556 over half a year. In Manchester the costs are still high, with a six month unpaid internship leaving your bank account £4,728 lighter. Most of this is swallowed up by rent and essential bills, and these figures exclude transport costs, the report said.

Yet most people won't have enough cash stashed to fund an unpaid internship. Average cash savings are around £1,678, according to estimates from the ING Direct Consumer Savings Monitor. However, unpaid interns who live alone spend a minimum of £800 a month, so for the vast majority of UK residents this isn't an option.

Dr Lee Elliot Major, director of development and policy at the Sutton Trust said:
Unpaid internships are increasingly the gateway to a job in the most competitive professions. But as today’s research shows, the cost of taking on an internship without pay is beyond the means of the vast majority of individuals.

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