Government's retail internships slammed as exploitative

Government's retail internships slammed as exploitative

The Turnbull government says it will help unemployed young people by offering 10,000 new internships over the next four years.

Promising experience and a chance to secure ongoing employment, internships can be highly sought-after.

But do they lead to ongoing employment?

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash thinks so.

"The best form of welfare is a job. And that's why at last year's budget we made the commitment of $850 million towards our youth jobs program. It's a three-step program and it's all about getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job."

The Australian Retailer's Association has backed the government's Youth Jobs PaTH program, promising to deliver 10,000 internships over four years.

Under the program, young people receive basic training.

Local businesses are paid $1,000 to take interns for 12 weeks.

Interns are paid $200 a fortnight plus income support payments - that works out to $4 an hour.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions President, Ged Kearney, says the program is a 'kick in the guts' for average retail workers, who just had their penalty rates slashed on Sunday.

"This is exploitation, this is a government-sanctioned program that actually borders on slavery. They cut the penalty rates of their good loyal employees and now they have taken up with gusto a program where they can get young unemployed kids for nothing."

The government says jobs created through the program must be new positions, rather than replacing current roles.

Since the PaTH program started in April more than 620 young people have participated.

Of the 212 that have finished their internship, only 82 have secured ongoing work.

Minister Cash says if a job isn't offered at the end of the internship, there will be an investigation into why not.

Russell Zimmerman is the Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association.

"We don't see this as just a job, we see this a career through retail. There have been some great people through retail who started at the bottom. And I refer to people like Bernie Brooks, who headed up Myer until a couple of years ago."

The spread of the practice of internships to the retail sector has alarmed advocacy groups, who say proper regulations and fair employment opportunities will be challenging to guarantee.

One group, Interns Australia, says its research indicates less than 19 per cent of unpaid internships lead to full-time employment offers.


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