Unpaid Internships

Unpaid Internships

By: Saipriya V

“Unpaid internships” a promising term, is now turning into an area of concern in Canada. Though the labor standards can vary from province to province, the unpaid internships often fall between the cracks in the system. People who are in a desperate position to find a job are more vulnerable for the ‘no pay’ jobs (2). According to the recent statistics, it was shocking to know that 100,000-300,000 Canadians work for no pay (1).

It was estimated that approximately 100,000 people in Ontario, mostly women, are working in “illegal” unpaid work every year (1). Similarly, young adults who struggle to find an entry level job and due to their financial instability and lack of protection for unpaid work, they often get caught into an unscrupulous working environment (3). Employers on the other hand use unpaid labor as a means to reduce labor costs.

New immigrant to Canada, in spite of their education and work experience are being told that they need Canadian experience (1).  It is often an advantage for some employers who ask new immigrants to work for free to get their foot in the employment ladder (4). New immigrants work for a few months with no pay and then the employer gets rid of them and brings on another newcomer to work for free. This becomes an unethical revolving cycle of free labor (4).

New immigrants are exploited by some employers in Canada who are ignoring their accountability under the Employment Standards Act or are not aware of them (1). There are too many new immigrants working as unpaid interns in Canada who are desperate for any kinds of work experience that can strengthen their resume to step in to the employment ladder and are also fearful of lodging a complaint against the exploitation (1).

The true purpose of the unpaid internships is supposedly offered for the benefit of those who take them, and in some cases it is offered as a valuable learning experience and opportunity to develop the skills (5). Hence it is important to educate our peers about the Ontario’s Employment Standard’s Act, which claims that, for an unpaid internship to be deemed legal it must be part of a vocational or post-secondary program. Further, the internship must be beneficial for the individual—those providing training must “derive little, if any, benefit from the activity of the individual,” and the intern must not “displace employees of the person providing the training” (5).


  1. 1.     OHRC- Ontario Human Rights Commission., Policy on Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier. http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-removing-%E2%80%9Ccanadian-experience%E2%80%9D-barrier.
  2. 2.     Black. D., Unpaid interns — the new Canadian underclass. http://ipolitics.ca/2013/09/16/unpaid-interns-the-new-canadian-underclass/.
  3. 3.     Pacheco. A.L., If you are an unpaid worker, you’re not alone. http://www.thirdquarter.ca/news/read,347/148/if-you-are-an-unpaid-worker-you-re-not-alone.
  4. 4.     Brennan. R.J., Interns, vulnerable workers, target of Ontario private member’s bill. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/07/23/interns_vulnerable_workers_target_of_ontario_private_members_bill.html.
  5. 5.     Reid. M., Who’s afraid of an unpaid internship?. http://jpress.journalism.ryerson.ca/jsource/whos-afraid-of-an-unpaid-internship/