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.

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

Italian youngsters are thinking old. Monti’s cultural revolution must go on

When talking to other coetaneous mates from Italy, I am always befuddled by listening to the first question I get.  When explaining my situation as an emigrant in the capital of Europe I am always asked “Do you have a permanent contract? If not, do you think you’ll get one? If not, why not?”.  Even before describing what kind of job I do, what are my career expectations or even my salary I always get asked about my contract’s length.

This is such an obsession among Italian youngsters. I would understand this type of concern from families with children, from professionals that, after years of working experience, are planning on making their first big investments or from over 40 year-olds.

But my question remains, why are young Italians so keen and desperate about the life-long contract type?

It is a fact that the undismayed desire for guaranteed, safe and continuous employment has had a two-fold effect.

Firstly, it has developed an endeavour , by the national administration and political streams, to make everyone happy about this, resulting into years of speculative cooptation in the public sector. This uncaring prolonged behavior has largely and openly contributed to long term sovereign debt, not only in Italy, but notably in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Belgium.

Secondly, it has killed, inter alia, the overall national entrepreneurial spirit that used to characterize the private sector and the medium entrepreneurship of the boot.

Having said that, I deeply share the widely and accepted concerns about fighting speculation by those companies that exploit very short contracts for legal and fiscal relief. Notwithstanding, a cultural swift towards work liberalization can only be a bliss in Italy.

Mr Monti’s scheme works as a cultural revolution. “I want to change Italy” he said in an interview for Time. “Daily poltical life has diseducated the Italians. We must give a meaning to meritocracy and competition”.

Growth can be triggered faster and more sustainably if a new revived entrepreneurial spirit and slimmer bureaucracy spread and get implemented along all levels of governance.

Young professional should be encouraged not only by the indiscriminate desire for financial security and the easiness that a fix contract provides. The opportunity of a working opportunity to create, expand and enrich our entrepreneurial and professional skills should be the first criteria to keep in mind when choosing a career opportunity.

This bad deleterious attitude is inherited by our previous generations. It is up to the Italian youngsters to push for a change in the vision of work, professionalism and the intervention of the state in such matters.

This cultural revolution must go on in all layers of society from pensioners to fresh graduate. It is still a long path on the road to recovery and competitiveness, but we can’t delay our progress any longer.