Published by CultNoise magazine.
When embarking on a career, most students know that it could be a long time before they earn a decent salary. They know that along with further education and professional career goals comes obligatory unpaid work experience placements and internships in their undergraduate years of study.
It’s a great pleasure to do what you love for a living and, with that in mind, there’s a general consensus among students that they don’t actually mind paying their dues – provided they are treated like a professional and paid accordingly when they graduate with a degree. But when does ‘paying your dues’ come to an end? Well, according to London Zoo, not even after a master’s degree.
ZSL London Zoo has been heavily criticised this week for posting a job listing seeking an intern with a graduate or postgraduate degree in biology or a related subject to help run a major conservation project. And the salary for this job? Not a penny.
Instead of a fair pay package, the successful candidate will be expected to work full-time hours in exchange for a measly £5 for lunch and a Travelcard to cover the costs of commuting to and from the zoo.
In their defence, a representative from London Zoo said: ‘As an international conservation charity, we are grateful for the donation of time from our dedicated volunteers and are appreciative of whatever availability they have.’
While London Zoo is a charity, funded by vital donations and volunteer support, to specific for a graduate with a master’s degree to work on an unpaid basis is plainly unfair and unjustifiable.
Of course, London Zoo absolutely deserves funds and support to continue their conservation projects. But under no circumstances should trained professionals be expected to work without pay – especially when their job is so important to the conservation of endangered species.
Another shocking aspect to this story is that this unpaid intern job for a master’s graduate is being offered in London, despite the city being not only the most expensive city in the UK but the third most expensive city in the world to live in. Considering this, is it realistic or fair to expect anyone to work in London for free when the cost of living is staggering?
The issue of fair pay has certainly been in the public consciousness in recent weeks with many companies including Monsoon being named and shamed for not paying a fair minimum wage, and it appears that many people – including professionals and experts in prestigious fields – are still fighting to be paid anything at all.
In response to the job listing, members of the public were outraged, and rightly so. The least a graduate should expect after four or more years in full-time education with a mountain of student debt is a salary above the minimum wage – never mind no wage at all.
When students work so hard to achieve the grades to enter university in the first place and then spend several years studying hard, juggling part-time jobs and a social life, and somehow squeezing in work experience relevant to their degree, refusing to pay them once they graduate as a professional or expert in their field is insulting – despite how much it’s dressed up as ‘valuable experience’.
The sad reality is that the more graduates willing to work for free in the name of gaining experience, the more employers will chance their arm at advertising free labour for jobs that should be paid; something which seems to be happening more and more.
If someone is volunteering for a charity like London Zoo or seeking experience to accompany their undergraduate study, working for free can be very valuable and rewarding. But an employer seeking a qualified professional as an unpaid intern who should and could be paid is not acceptable. This job listing effectively sends out the message: ‘Why enter into further education at all? Just volunteer with us. Either way – you won’t be getting paid.’
No matter the field, graduates should not be expected to ‘pay their dues’ forever.
What do you think about the controversial London Zoo job listing? Let us know in the comment section below.