Brussels army of 'slave' trainees escapes EU gaze

Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:39pm EDT
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By Anders Melin

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - When Alex Godson accepted his first unpaid internship in Brussels after receiving a master's degree in international relations from the University of Manchester, he believed a full-time position was just a few months away.

But Godson bounced from one low-paid traineeship to another for three years before finally landing a proper job in May at the European Movement International, a Brussels-based group that lobbies for a federal Europe.

He is just one of the thousands of young graduates who toil on the Brussels treadmill without job security, benefits or sometimes even a salary under the noses of European Union leaders meeting this week to declare war on youth unemployment.

"When you're just rolling from one unpaid traineeship to another, you're not on a path to anywhere," said Godson, who had to rely on his parents for money. "There's always that intern in the office, and you're just the person holding that position at the moment."

EU leaders have pledged to ensure that every young European who is out of work will be offered a proper job, training or an apprenticeship within four months. They will announce more money to back that drive on Friday.

But if they just look around them, they will see plenty of unpaid or underpaid youth slaving away in Europe's engine room.

Often dependent on grants or donations that shrink when the economy turns down, the many non-governmental organizations and think-tanks in Brussels have become increasingly reliant on short-term hires.

Graduates trying to build a CV make a good fit - young, ambitious and willing to put in long hours at very low pay.   Continued...