The former Labour MP David Miliband is facing criticism after it emerged that the charity he runs, for which he was paid more than £700,000, is offering unpaid internships at its headquarters in New York City.
Miliband, the chief executive of the refugee charity International Rescue Committee (IRC), has previously been labelled “million-dollar Miliband” after his pay packet rose to $911,796 in 2019, then worth more than £700,000.
This was an increase of nearly £200,000 on the previous two years, and two-and-a-half times the amount his predecessor received.
While the full-time internships, which range from eight to 12 weeks, are based in the US, the charity receives millions in UK aid.
The intern roles, based on a 37.5-hour week, are being advertised in a variety of departments in the IRC including advocacy, executive offices and violence prevention and response, the Times first reported. Applicants are required to have at least two years of undergraduate-level education.
The adverts, which are promoted on the UN jobs website, say: “Our internships are unpaid. However, these are great opportunities to make a meaningful impact through work and start a career in non-profit.”
Campaigners calling for the end to unpaid internships argue that they shut many less advantaged young people out of top careers. In London, an unpaid internship costs young people more than £1,000 a month due to rising rents, according to Sutton Trust research.
Vicky Browning, the head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: “Unpaid internships are opportunities which are largely restricted to those with enough financial backing to support them. This reinforces inequality and makes them a barrier to social mobility, so we don’t recommend charities offer them.”
Ellie Mae O’Hagan, the director of the thinktank Class (Centre for Labour & Social Studies), said the UK government should not support charities that do not pay everyone who works for them.
She said: “Most of us agree that young people should be given the best start they can in life. Organisations that refuse to pay for internships shut thousands of young people out of the opportunities they need, at a time when youth unemployment is a real problem.
“It’s time for the UK government to stop supporting charities that don’t pay people for their hard work.”
A spokesperson for IRC UK said: “IRC UK does not use unpaid interns and is a separate legal entity from the IRC’s global headquarters in the United States.”
The IRC in the US and David Miliband have also been approached for a comment.