The U.N. Unpaid Internship is Not for Sale. Well.

One would suspect that a college student who can pay $22,000 to work 25 hours a week for free in one of the most expensive cities in the world needs little help making connections. But that misconstrues the goal of unpaid internships: transforming personal wealth into professional credentials. For students seeking jobs at certain policy organisations, the way to get one’s foot in the door is to walk the streets paved in gold. In the post-employment economy, jobs are privileges, and the privileged have jobs.

Unpaid and “pay to play” internships have long dominated policy fields, but the $22,000 asking price signified a barrier to entry so galling the UN issued a statement in response. “Internships at the United Nations are not for sale and cannot be put up for auction. We are trying to find out the details of how this came about and have contacted charitybuzz.com,” a UN representative wrote to Inner City Press, who reported on the case.

Remember the unpaid internship at the U.N. CharityBuzz listed that was going for $22,000? Sarah Kendzior now has a piece about it on Al Jazeera, and the U.N. is saying it didn’t know anything about it. The U.N. doesn’t sell internships! But it does have unpaid internships in New York where interns can cover their own living expenses—even if they are forbidden to accept other paid work during their internship term. Thinking about babysitting or bartending part-time to fund your U.N. internship? Sorry, not allowed. You’ve got to have your dollars saved up before considering applying for the unpaid position. It’s not class discrimination at all.

Photo: Ashitakka

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