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Allison Pearson, journalism, Nick Clegg, social mobility

Social mobility on both sides of the Atlantic

I liked columnist and writer, Allison Pearson’s view on UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s social mobility strategy plans reported in the UK press this week. Clegg said he wanted to reverse the unpaid internship culture that favoured the wealthy and well-connected.

Pearson pointed out: “Fairness is the new buzzword for politicians, yet string-pulling is to our ruling elite what rain is to Swansea. It’s the prevailing climate, whether you’re Left or Right.”

Last month a black British journalist who has been working in the US media for more than a decade told me she preferred working in America because there were more opportunities for people like her than in the UK. She told me she did not think she would have made it to a senior rank like she had in the States, in the UK. (Although, the trade-off was a general lack of intellectualism and an inappropriate amount of deference to authority figures in the US media, she added!)

Yet the U.S. has its own problems in this area. Coincidentally, last week there was debate around a new book published here called “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy” by a researcher at the Himalayan Languages Project, Ross Perlin.  He writes: “Colleges and universities have become cheerleaders and enablers of the unpaid internship boom, failing to tell young people of their rights or protect them from the miserly calculus of employers. In hundreds of interviews with interns over the past three years, I found dejected students resigned to working unpaid for summers, semesters and even entire academic years — and, increasingly, to paying for the privilege.”

On both sides of the Atlantic, the more wealthy and well-connected are likely to survive while doing these internships. But in the US the point is that interns are exploited to weaken the leverage of existing employees trying to find work in the current economy – i.e. professionals, which others may refer to as the jilted generation.


About Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Herpreet Kaur Grewal is a newspaper-trained journalist, editor and commentator. She formerly wrote and edited a section for the social policy and politics magazine Regeneration & Renewal. She has worked for The Times of London and her articles have featured in The Guardian, The Observer and The Daily Express. She specialises in social deprivation issues, gender, human rights , arts and culture.


One thought on “Social mobility on both sides of the Atlantic

  1. >The excessive use of interns is an atrocity. There are very strict laws on what interns can do for you for free, they're not just supposed to be free labour, and yet that's what they get used for.The worst is that they perpetuate the lack of economic mobility that has become the hallmark of this country.You can see a very horrific example in the awful film, "The Pursuit of Happyness" [sic] where the lead character is reduced to sleeping in a public lavatory with his son because he's working on what's essentially an unpaid internship for one of the richest companies in America – and this is portrayed as a *good* thing…

    Posted by Tom Ritchford | May 1, 2011, 16:06

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Herpreet Kaur Grewal is an editor and journalist currently based in London.

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