The Impact trade union has called for the JobBridge internship scheme to be ended following reports that it has been used to fill hundreds of positions for State agencies and multinational corporations.
The most frequent user of the scheme has been the HSE which brought on 399 Jobbridge interns over the five years since its inception, followed by the GAA with 249 interns according to statistics compiled by the Sunday Business Post.
Global IT firm Hewlett-Packard has brought in 176 JobBridge interns, who typically work for between 30 and 40 hours per week for an additional €52.50 on top of unemployment allowances according to Department of Social Protection guidelines.
The figures reveal that JobBridge has been used by companies to fill positions ranging from legal executive to deli assistant, while the HSE has used it for 67 assistant psychological positions since 2011.
Impact has called for the scheme to be replaced with targeted programmes aimed at specific groups including unemployed early school leavers, graduates and the long-term unemployed.
The union's deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan believes instances of abuse and exploitation by employers have detracted from the successes of JobBridge, which was initiated with the aim of providing working experience for jobless individuals during a period of high unemployment.
There is no suggestion in the reports that any of the parties involved have used the scheme improperly, or to displace existing jobs.
“Many of those who welcomed the scheme in 2011 have been troubled by the recurring reports of abuse and exploitation, which have dogged its reputation and greatly undermined its many positive outcomes,” said Mr Callinan.
He continued: “While the scheme undoubtedly served a useful purpose when youth unemployment and emigration was rocketing at the height of the economic crash, it’s now time to move on.
“We need to halt the growing culture of open labour market internships in our economy where, too often, internships are used to displace paid employment and drive down pay and working conditions.”
Trade unions have been vociferous opponents of the JobBridge internship scheme over recent years, as has the National Youth Council of Ireland.
Impact has pointed to a report it published by Dr Mary Murphy of NUI Maynooth last year which identified "adequate" remuneration for interns and a moratorium of interns to the public sector until all actual recruitment moratoriums are lifted.