Kenya: To Pay or Not to #PayInterns?

Kenyan tweep @RobertAlai started a lively debate on 14 May, 2012 about the need for companies to pay interns. @RobertAlai wanted tweeps to ask companies, “#DoYouPayInterns?”:

@RobertAlai: If you are an intern and you feel that you are being exploited, please email me on alai @ Let's ask #DoYouPayInterns ?

Tweeps immediately took to their keyboards siding with interns:

@madonah12: #PayInterns Is the best Trend Ever I just love the idea that Interns should get Lunch Fare and Pocket money cc @RobertAlai Good work

A banner in support of interns. Photo courtesy: Jeff Howard Flickr account (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

@tyrus_: Aye how come all those KE companies on Twitter who tweet “Good morning and Good night” and sell new products cant respond to #PayInterns ?

@RobertAlai: “Interns” must be paid. Stand up for your rights and you'll find that employers are capable of paying you #PayInterns

@TheMacharia: I wonder how many of those on #PayInterns have actually hired, not selected, but hired interns.

@mainneli: Interns should be paid. they do the same work and same stuff like anyone else in the office,stop exploitation #Payinterns

@tkb: @kainvestor @Worldbank inviting users to wiki is same as @Wikipedia who don't #payinterns Create a global public good with all content open!

@B_Oyigo: @RobertAlai Jamii Telecom Limited #PAYINTERNS btwn 10-15k

@KenyaPolice: Kenya Police does not support the exploiation of Kenyan workers. #PayInterns

However, some tweeps sided with companies using interns without pay:

@Kkaaria: Interns, 5 years into your career, you will realize how little you actually knew when you started off. Be patient.. #payInterns

@TerryanneChebet: My two cents to the #payinterns. I say no. An allowance for food and transport, however is alright.

@mainaalex: ati #payinterns for what?if they are that good, they should start their own companies. show value you get paid.

@Kamungah: @MediaMK Interns contribute, companies gain as interns get required skills. Win – Win. Some employers use them as ‘continuous’ interviews.

Bloggers have also joined the debate. Blogger Dennis Matara argued that labour laws stipulate that interns must be paid after working for three months:

You must wake up! You have been in intern for more than three months? Get alive. Labour laws clearly state that the company that takes you in as an intern is required by law to absorb you as their full time employee, paid in their scale and entitle to leave days among other benefits. If they cannot do that, then your internship should end at the end of your third month there.

It is true and evident that some interns ‘decide’ to stay longer in the hope of ‘acting good’ in order to secure themselves a job. Yes, that is ok but if the company really needs you that much, then they must take you in. Many employers know very well that majority of these interns are straight from college, they do not have money even for their transport to work but still misuse them to the fullest.

Nairobi Wire noted that companies in Kenya paying interns are the minority:

The companies that pay there interns are the minority and they pay peanuts. Reading through some of the tweets, KCB, EABL, CIC, KPLC, KBC, Standard Group, NMG, RMS among many others have been listed as the most exploitative. Equity bank has been attacked for using CSR as a reason to have cheap labour. KBC is the worst of all since interns have to pay to intern there.
There have also been complains of interns been sexually exploited.

This is one of the most lively discussion I've seen on twitter in a long time. Most of the time, people are always rumbling about Kenya Power.

#PayInterns has generated so much interest that at its peak, around 150 tweets were being tweeted per minute. This is considering its only in Kenya. Various corporates have also tweeted responding to allegations that they do not remunerate their interns. KCB tweeted, “KCB Group does not obtain any money from interns. Interns are actually paid a monthly stipend that is above the industry average”

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