Too much for too little… the death of a Bank of America intern must herald reform of the internship industry

This letter from the European Youth Forum has been widely circulated around various business in Brussels. The tragic death of Moritz Erhardt, a German student who was working at Bank of America as part of a summer internship programme, has sparked huge debate over the exploitation of young graduates in Europe especially as a consequence of the economic crisis.

I republish this letter as a symbol of sympathy and understanding towards those who are discussing the issue on a multinational level and investing their efforts in raising awareness about the hard life of young job seekers in time of crisis.

Dear Editor,

Many young people across Europe are undertaking internships in order to acquire new skills. Internships provide young people with a great opportunity to get first hand experience of the world of work. For students in particular, internships can provide the crucial stepping stone between education and employment.

However, there is evidence that the quality of internships varies across the EU in terms of learning outcomes, involvement of the intern, access to social benefits and remuneration. It is deeply concerning to see extreme cases as the one reported in the article mentioned above. The death of this young person after having been exploited and abused while completing his internship in a big company is totally unacceptable.

The European Youth Forum (YFJ) has been fighting for quality internships for a number of years, and has been pressing decision makers to take action to ensure that young interns are not exploited. The Interns Revealed survey[2] carried out by the Youth Forum in 2011 showed that only 51% of interns were paid for the work they did. Of those who did not receive pay, 65% stated that they had to rely on financial support from home. In this context, the Youth Forum developed the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships[3]. The Quality Charter outlines the minimum quality criteria to be ensured by internship providers in order to guarantee a valuable, safe and educational internship experience for young people.

Furthermore, the Youth Forum has also recently launched an initiative together with Microsoft, one of the signatories of the Charter, on our commitment to quality internships. The initiative commits Microsoft, CSR Europe, and the Youth Forum to creating a learning network of companies on the topic of internships and apprenticeships, in order to help employers develop quality schemes with educational value and decent labour conditions. The Youth Forum would therefore like to take this occasion to invite other companies to join this initiative, sign the Charter, and help put a stop to this unacceptable treatment of young people in the workplace.


The European Youth Forum


The European Youth Forum (YFJ) is the platform of youth organisations in Europe. Independent, democratic and youth-led, it represents 99 National Youth Councils and International Youth Organisations from across the continent. The Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in society to improve their own lives, by representing and advocating their needs and interests and those of their organisations towards the European Institutions, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

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