MEF must realise that interns are not slaves!

I refer to the latest statement issued by the president of the Malaysian Employers Federation, Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman in which he states that making allowance payments to students undergoing industrial training compulsory will only discourage private sector employers from offering places for internships. This is an irresponsible statement that clearly shows the greed of these employers to minimize costs to the detriment of society at large.

Whilst internships are chances to gain valuable industry experience, they do introduce costs incurred by students, namely for transportation, potential accommodation, food and associated costs of living. Furthermore, the labour these students offer does benefit their employer through whatever work completed in the duration of their internship. It is therefore unfair for any student undergoing industrial placement to not be compensated for this as well. In fact, it should be mandated that all interns are paid at least the minimum wage.

Leaving this to the discretion of employers has clearly resulted in minimal or no allowances paid to some interns. In some cases, there is no discernible difference to the amount of work that an intern does compared to their peers with permanent or contract employment. The industry experience, which is now seen as a service to students, must be thought of as repaying societal debt as the existence of profits extracted by employers is only made possible through the workers and customers from society at large.

Moreover, logically speaking, employers should desire employees who are properly trained through such experiences as internships. Hence, it is their responsibility to train them in the first place. Otherwise, how fair is it to prefer employees with internships in the first place? Or is it that the private sector wants to both underpay interns to extract greater profit from them and, if forced to pay them more, simply not train future employees so they can pay them less due to a lack of internship experience?

In any case, the government should not only guarantee a minimum wage for interns, but also legislate to ensure every student that undertakes studies with a mandatory internship requirement are guaranteed internships as well.

Arveent Kathirtchelvan
Pemuda Sosialis

17 Feb 2023

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