Marie Claire Internship: R30 is more than enough. Your self-entitlement attitude isn’t.

Marie Claire pic

Last week social media exploded with opinions following a screenshot (above) of Marie Claire (the glossy magazine) offering interns R30.00 a day. The reaction was unanimous: How dare they offer such a low wage. The Southern African Freelancers Association (Safrea) came out with a strong statement saying interns are being exploited. Prominent figures said the matter should be referred to the Department of Labour.

If this is our reaction and opinion, no wonder South Africa is sitting with an unemployment rate of 25% and youth unemployment at 40%. We are not taking responsibility for ourselves and we are teaching the youth to do the same. We are developing an attitude of entitlement: Dear youth, don’t worry about giving more, we will force employers to give you more. We will take them to the Department of Labour, we will force them to the CCMA, we will strike, we will demand, we will get. The reality however: they employ less, they abolish internships and the economy as a whole is suffering.

Let’s get back to the beginning. Internship? The definition on Wikipedia:

Intern positions may be paid or unpaid and are usually temporary. Generally, an internship consists of an exchange of services for experience between the student and an organization.

So here’s Marie Claire, an international brand and one of the best magazines in the world. They offer young graduates an opportunity to come and work with them, to be exposed to their systems, their management, to learn from them. They offer R30 a day. What do we see? We look pass all the experience and connections you can gain and we focus on the immediate monetary reward: R30.

I get it, R30 is nothing. People on Twitter compared the daily wage against what you can buy: An avo at Woollies or one coffee at Vida e Caffe… What a corrupted attitude!

If you really want to make it in this world, you’ll beg for this opportunity and make it work. When you in this position, you definitely don’t drink coffee at Vida and you definitely don’t eat at Woollies. You will cut back on everything. You will sleep on a couch. You will waiter tables at night, you will do promotional work over the weekend. You will make it work.

We have been programmed to blame everyone and eveything but ourselves. White people say they can’t get jobs because of affirmative action, black people say they can’t get jobs because of racism. Meanwhile, the hard working people, regardless of race, get jobs because they have the right attitude and is willing to work for it.

Easy for me to comment? Successful entrepreneur writing this out of a Sandton hotel? Yes, today this is the case. At 18 it wasn’t. I was cutting grass to pay my own school fees, I couldn’t get a bursary, I started working during the day, earned R900, paid for my own degree while working in the day and studying at night. 6 years later at age 24, I was a self made millionaire. Because I’m white? No, because I worked damn hard.

And you know what, that’s all it takes: hard work. You will be successful. And when you are, you will start your own business and you will employ those interns who were not willing to do this. And you will pay them… And they will still not be able to afford coffee at Vida or an avo at Woollies.

A friend, Hein Scholtz, commented the following on Facebook. Today he is successful in what he does and it all started with an internship:

I spent 6 weeks in an unpaid internship when I finished my BPhil and it nearly ruined me financially, with a car, petrol and living expenses to keep.
BUT i did learn a lot about hard work, and I made a lot of media contacts I eventually used to great benefit in the next 5 years.

Stop the excuses and start the grind. What’s your opinion?

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16 Comments

  • Lwazi
    January 27, 2016 at 10:28 am — Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, our society has become lazy…Marie Claire is an international brand and the amount of exposure it will give to the interns is phenomenal they will be riding on what started from 1937 in France and the connections & awareness they will get is off-the-hook.
    Sometimes I wonder if people understand “what hardwork means anymore”

  • Mira
    January 27, 2016 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    Well said. However, having done an internship at Elle Magazine myself, and earning absolutely nothing, I do feel that this industry is ill fit for those less fortunate, those who come from a less fortunate background and do not have any financial support while working for this excellent exposure and experience. (Which it really is – a wonderful opportunity that can lead to a promising career) There is major difference between self entitlement and self worth. We need to understand both our worth and our entitlement as well as the difference between the two. That all I have to say.

  • Lize
    January 27, 2016 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    It’s not self-entitlement, it’s a sense of self-respect. R30 a day is disgusting and no person should have to work for free ‘to make it’. Paying such wages perpetuates the slave-master relationship which is so dominant in SA. Paying R30 a day sustains our lovely GINI-coefficient. It keeps those withour money begging and those with money in power. It is only once we say it’s unacceptable that things will start changing. The minimum wage is a joke and protesting for higher wages is not a sense of self-entitlement! You go live on the minimum wage without some savings and mommy/daddy to foot your bills and you will see what it’s really about. Point is, internships can be seen as hands-on training but the very nature of internships is questionable because they make people work for free. Just because Wikipedia (what kind of source is that anyway) says internships are usually unpaid does not mean it should be accepted. I work as a cleaner in the Netherlands and earn 10 Euro an hour, which is the minimum wage. That is self-respect. Asking for more money is not self-entitlement. It is the right to get paid what you’re worth. The economic gap will not change until people think others don’t deserve to be paid what they deserve – a decent wage.

    • Lize
      January 27, 2016 at 4:25 pm — Reply

      I did an internship at a South African newspaper and although it was crappy in the sense of working very hard and doing stories no-one else wanted to do, they paid a decent salary (including pension) and the job description was journalist, not ‘admin horse’. If publications want to give R30 a day they should not call it an internship, because doing liaising and coffee runs will never be training for the real job, it’s just labour exploitation by making people do the crappy work for free in a ‘stimulating environment’. They should call it an admin volunteer job, because that’s all it is.

  • Anon
    January 27, 2016 at 3:06 pm — Reply

    I did an internship at this publication a few years ago and yes it is a great experience and I don’t disagree with you. However, an internship at Marie Claire is for 6 months. you need to be able to support yourself for that amount of time. Only a small number of people can do that. The interns are also putting in the hard work the magazine needs and relies on. They are the first ones to arrive each day and the last to leave. I was often organising things before and after hours. The interns write about 80% of the online articles, they source products for shoots, they pack, send and set up for shoots. They also correspond with clients etc. They do a lot of driving. It is a job. It is work that an employee would be required to do. There is very little actual mentoring time. There needs to be a guideline of what is suitable work for interns and for how long before it becomes exploitation.

  • Kate
    January 27, 2016 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    While I agree with the principle that there needs to be an attitude shift, I feel that 6 months at R30/day is hardly enough and is in no way justifiable.

    At around R645/month working full time, you’d have to find an exceptionally well-paying second job, in relatively close proximity to where you live, if you are to be completely financially independent. Which I doubt would be possible.

    The monthly wage would probably afford your transport (provided you weren’t paying off a vehicle), and maybe your cellphone data/airtime (although I doubt enough to to cover the usage) – again provided you didn’t have to pay for the device.

    In addition, you’d probably need to be living near the Marie Claire offices, as you couldn’t afford to travel some distance on that income.

    I agree with many of the social media comments regarding how this type of internship is reserved for the upper LSMs. If I think back to my internship/first job where I earned a small income per month, there is no way I would have successfully made it through a month if I didn’t have my parents to assist me with some payments. Very few people have this luxury!!

    What about medical bills? What about insurance? What about rent? What about food? What about people who need to contribute to their household?

  • Leah Jazz
    January 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm — Reply

    I don’t know if I wholly agree with this. I have a friend who has interned at Marie Claire and from what I can gather, it looks like their business model is around getting unpaid interns to do all the hard dirty graft. Their turnover of staff is unbelievable. While I agree that you have to work hard and opportunities aren’t always served on a silver platter, 6 months is an extremely long time to live on a salary of zero at a full time job when people (from Vega at least) can be faced with almost R300 000 in student loans. People cannot survive on nothing. Life is demanding, even of a 20 year old, and people need to eat. If you don’t have a couch to crash on or parents to feed you, how are you supposed to make it when you get out of varsity?

    This “opportunity” is skewed towards people that already have a semblance of opportunity and privilege.

  • Michelle
    January 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    The only people who can work for R30 a day are those with financial support (such as trust funds or parents). No amount of weekend and evening waitering is going to make up the amount of money needed for food, a roof over your head and transport. Let’s also factor in that they will be working past 5pm, as with every job in media, and are required to work 6 full months at that pay rate.

    These are not entitled excuses. These are the facts.
    These types of ‘work opportunities’ are reserved for the already financially supported, and excludes those who actually need a foot in the door. Which probably explains why magazine content is also dominated by the upper middle class, predominantly white, voice. On and on the wheel turns.

  • Kelly
    January 28, 2016 at 9:28 am — Reply

    I have read all the comments, articles, listened to interviews and discussed the R30 per day internship issue extensively. While I am in a difficult position to comment, I have struggled to keep mum on an issue that I am undoubtedly a part of.

    I do not disagree that the non-payment of interns is not ok and neither is the reality that the industry can only be exclusive based on this age-old practice. I do fear we miss lots of true talent because not everyone is able to afford this opportunity.

    I will however defend the internship itself. I will stand by the fact that the internship experience, specifically at Marie Claire, is a valuable one. I personally take the time to mentor, support and push the young people that come through the doors. The Marie Claire office is a safe environment, it is a place where they can have a voice, make mistakes, pitch ideas, discover what they love and loathe and enter the work force more than ready and more confident. It is an active learning opportunity, and one that I hope, all my interns have found priceless.

    Contrary to the many comments I have read, we do not abuse the interns, we don’t only get them to do the shitty work, we also don’t force them to make us coffee – I mean, they can if they absolutely want to. My point is, the experience should be rather seen as an extension of your studies, a place to put in to practice what you have learnt and take in all that one has yet to learn.

    The reality is, if you want to view the experience as a paid job where candidates are rewarded financially for their expertise, then taking on interns would be a completely different ballgame and the ‘requirements’ would probably become tougher; applicants would need to come ready with production know-how, superb writing skills, a well-trained eye, and while we’re at it, an extensive list of contacts and ready-made industry relationships. Would this not make the whole system even more exclusionary?

    I sincerely value my girls (and guys) that have come through these offices and completed the 6 months and no, not all have come from complete privilege. I reject the notion of so-called abuse. From the experience, we have had girls who have gone on to have their own radio show, some are thriving internationally. I have had girls who haven’t even yet started studying for their degrees and yet they already have job offers. Some interns have even stayed on in magazines, I am so proud of every single one of them.

    I myself was an unpaid intern and it is not ideal especially in the society and economic climate we find ourselves in. It is not uncommon in the media world and in many other industries and even in education itself. This issue does need to be urgently addressed so we can continue to discover a lot more of the young talent that this country has to offer.

  • anon
    January 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    Until it eventually destroys the industry because why pay someone when somebody else will do it for free. That is essentially all they are doing, and I know for a fact that they get their interns to do all the actual work without much mentorship at all.

    • Kelly
      January 28, 2016 at 4:55 pm — Reply

      This is not the case at all. Sorry.

  • Danny
    January 28, 2016 at 12:58 pm — Reply

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xH7eGFuSYI I thiinks that explains a bit.

  • Garth Breytenbach
    January 28, 2016 at 2:53 pm — Reply

    Well written piece. Some of the comments below clearly have never worked in an environment of this nature. Handouts is the name of the game in 2016. Interns know the value, not the Facebook warriors.

  • Craig Dewaar
    January 30, 2016 at 2:12 pm — Reply

    I can see both sides of the picture. Here they are offering R30.00 a day for a 6 month internship. You need experience to get work, we all know this. So when you can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, don’t forget about that internship that you passed up. However some employers start taking advantage when these internships go on for a year, maybe 2, maybe 3 and maybe even more. However in this position you have nobody to blame but yourself. Once you have the experience and you are still being paid as an intern the real exploitation begins. Take your experience and apply it elsewhere, this is why you took on the internship in the first place. You need to constantly evaluate your life and your situation. Don’t exploit yourself.

  • Martin Lamprecht
    March 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm — Reply

    This is so true, an important point missed is that the intern should also save a portion of that R30/day. Great opinion. Thanks

  • Nads Love-in-it
    September 2, 2017 at 12:12 pm — Reply

    People in this world think that they are going to just get handed what they want and not have to work for it. I have been working my butt off my whole life, and through very difficult circumstances as well. At age 29 I lost my husband, partly due to us not having medical aid as it is so expensive, and partly due to hospital staff negligence which has just been swept under the rug. Now, at age 33, I provide for my 8-year old daughter all on my own. I work full-time (extremely stressful position) AND I go home in the evening and work my second job which is baking cakes and cupcakes to be able to provide for my daughter all on my own. I don’t ask for hand-outs, I don’t cry on someone’s shoulder and I do not complain about having to work so hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. Yes, I do not own a home of my own, I rent. I drive a quite bad 2nd hand car and I cannot eat out at a restaurant at all as it is simply too expensive. But this society is so focused on money that no-one cares about earning a decent and honorable living for themselves and their family. I would die of shame having to ask anyone for a hand-out. And I earned my way to where I am today by working hard and starting right at the bottom of the whole heap. Maybe people should start having more pride in themselves instead of just wait for others to hand it to them on a silver platter.

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