“Is it not a blessing that I can get a job working from home for livelihood during the pandemic and be a relief to me, my family, especially to my parents of staying home, staying safe”, vows an adolescent. In return the online employer wants a so-called little test in the form of report, catering to a client’s lucrative deal and easy picking of best of three from scores of such kids’ unpaid long and hard toil. Many a crafty employer offer fake job offers, make talented youth work for customers’ business requirements, do nothing and earn roaring profits from free creative labor of innocent job seekers. The shocking part is they pose in such a business-like manner that is fraught with deceit and dismay of the childish job-seeker who is sweetly given an excuse of being a drop-out after hard unpaid work.
Work from office is indeed faking and bluffing as the growing trend in exploiting youth labour is the increase in unpaid internships or “work experience” that university graduates take on so they have something good to put on their resumés. These graduates work the same as the paid staff, in fact many of them work the equivalent of full time or longer to make a good impression in the hope that putting in the extra effort will guarantee them a job. It is not necessarily the case. The same is true in retail and hospitality, with unpaid “trial shifts” as part of the interview process. Placements that are part of university degrees are unpaid and can last for up to six or seven weeks of full-time work, often forcing students to sacrifice paid work to fulfil the course requirement.
This increasing trend of the exploitation of young workers is yet another way the bosses are undermining hard fought for wages and conditions and contributing to unemployment rates. Why would businesses employ paid workers when they can get young graduates or placement students to do the same job for free? It is also worth noting how age and gender intersect in terms of exploitation in the workforce. Gender pay gap widens dramatically for women aged between 24 and 45. Presumably that is the age that many women decide to have children and care for families. Similarly the percentage of women working less than full time hours — either part-time or casually — increases after age 20, again because the expectation is that women will start families and take the larger share of care for children as well as other domestic duties.
The related Federal Ministry, Human Resource and Administration Departments of private and public sector organizations, Human Resource Management concerns of national, multinational and international organizations and interrelated Trade Unions have a responsibility to do more to defend the rights of young people in the workforce, as the exploitation of young workers undermines the wages and conditions of all workers and ultimately will lead to their greater exploitation. While Unions need to adhere in principle and practice to begin educating young workers about their rights in the workplace, media need to further perk up policies and programs that innocent young internees and workers’ must not remain unpaid or underpaid.
To cut the long story short, it is moral, logical and justifiable to advocate the conversion of all totally unpaid internships into suitably paid ones as it is only with the involvement of mind, body and soul and not mere formality of marking attendance and copy pasting data and text that internships can bring morale-boosting change in the lives of talented interns of today transforming into value-adding professionals of tomorrow reflective of a harmonious blend of mutual sharing, caring and rewards both for the enlightening youth and the prospective employer towards a better and brighter company, home, community and society and the valued customers or clients for whom all the business and professional acumen is all about.
What remains of paramount significance for guiding and helping our minor and trivial or so very insignificant and inconsequential job-seekers from exploitation to enlightenment is the inspiring and instrumental role of the concerned university management, more especially, focally and centrally, of the illustrious, caring and altruistic faculty, teachers and counselors, who spot, identify, harness, nurture, groom and blossom with selfless devotion and exemplary commitment the corporate and social leaders of tomorrow with grace, dignity and honor for the institution, the students and interns, their families, their society, their fellow beings and their community all towards a better and brighter Pakistan.
The writer contributes to media on national and international affairs. [email protected]