Youth Forum takes legal step to ban unpaid internships in Belgium
The complaint aims to challenge and ultimately change Belgian legislation, seeking a legal decision that will set a precedent across Europe and beyond to make this unfair and discriminatory practice illegal.
Currently Belgium has the highest percentage of unpaid interns in the EU, with only 1 in 5 (18%) being paid for work.
One focus of the complaint is on the “stage bénévolat” or voluntary internship offered to young people after their studies, which are often used to replace entry-level jobs.
The complaint argues that unpaid internships are in violation of the right to fair remuneration as well as the right of children and young persons to protection as defined in the European Social Charter.
The Youth Forum’s complaint comes a week after the EU Commission’s European Youth Week, where events were held across the continent to discuss and celebrate the contribution of young people in society.
However, the use of young Europeans as cheap or free labour is a problem that needs to be tackled urgently, as employers continue to exploit youth at a time when 1 in 3 young people are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, making youth the most at risk age group. ■