Point is though, it's all well and good if you can afford to work for ten weeks without pay. Plenty can't. Means big opportunities are only open to people with the independant means to pay for them.
Should, IMO, be limits on the length, and type of work, you can do on an unpaid business.
I'm tempted to agree, but then I repeat my question above - is it better that there are opportunities that make it tough on some and exclude others, or no opportunities at all?
Also, what does 'being able to afford to work for ten weeks without pay' actually mean?
For some people I know, it has meant relying on several mates to let them sleep on a matress on their floor for a bit, living extremely frugally for a while and even taking an additional job alongside the internship (as described by LK above).
All I'm saying is, for most people, it would be possible to 'get by' for a period of 10 weeks if they wanted it badly enough (and very few of these internships don't pay travel and lunch). In fact, it could be precisely this bit of sacrifice, determination and ability to make and use contacts that is required to succeed in appealing industries like fashion, advertising and politics, where the supply of willing participants far exceeds the demand for them, in a way not dissimilar to music or professional sport.
I think there is a difference between dossing on somebody's floor for a fortnight, and doing it for 10 weeks. One is a lot more practical than the other. I'm not sure that option is actually open to most people, or rather I'd be surprised if it wasn't unavailable to a not insignificant proportion. Given ST is asking about cheap rooms, it seems it isn't available to his daughter. It might be possible to work a full day for free, then work a shift in a bar the same night for a couple of weeks, I can't see how it is possible over ten weeks without performance in the internship itself being affected. People who could afford to do the internship without getting a second job would have a big advantage over those who had had no sleep and were exhausted from working 14-16 hour days, given often these internships are 'auditions' for real jobs.
I think there is a difference between short, unpaid, 'work experience', where the candidate in question is getting valuable experience, without actually contributing very much to the company he or she is at, and long internships where the candidate makes a contribution to the company which ordinarily would be worthy of a wage. In the former, it is difficult to argue the company ought to pay, they aren't really taking any benefit, and most people, with some sacrifice, ought to be able to do them. It might be a good idea to limit the length of such schemes, so they are available to all, but I'm not sure things like 'shadowing' are things companies ought to be compelled to pay for.
For longer internships where the candidate is doing actual work, the same arguments work as do for the minimum wage. These I imagine are the ones you had in mind when you said technically illegal, but not enforced? I think the rule ought to be enforced. Also, I think any internship lasting longer than, say, a month, regardless of whether the company receives any direct tangible benefit, ought to be paid, as otherwise I think the class of people it would be open to would be acutely discriminatory.
As for are some opportunities better than none, that makes the, IMO false, assumption, that if you forced companies to pay minimum wage to these 'interns' that they would stop offering them. They clearly get benefits from them. A work 'audition' at minimum wage would provide a much greater opportunity to examine the ability of a candidate for a job than merely an interview. There may well be fewer of these internships, but they would be going to the best candidates, not the best candidates who could afford it.
I'm reminded of an interesting (to me anyway) article I read concerning the legal profession. There are calls to have a minimum salary for training contracts, above the legal minimum wage. That isn’t something I’d agree with. I think in that case, your argument about sacrifice and determination is a strong one.