On 31 December 2021, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and six other ministries of the People’s Republic of China jointly issued a circular to revise the Administrative Provisions on the Internships of Vocational School Students (the 2021 Internship Regulations) and abolish the Administrative Provisions on the Internships of Vocational School Students that had been in effect since 11 April 2016 (the 2016 Internship Regulations). The 2021 Internship Regulations came into effect on the same day that the circular was issued.
The internships regulated by the 2021 Internship Regulations refer to practical educational activities in which secondary and higher vocational school students participate. Vocational schools provide a full-time diploma-awarding education to students and arrange for students to participate in internships with corporations or public institutions (the internship employers). Students may also arrange internships themselves upon approval of their schools. The 2021 Internship Regulations strengthen the administration of such internships by providing basic requirements for all aspects of the internship process, such as:
- internship organisation;
- internship management;
- security responsibilities and safety measures;
- internship position;
- informed consent;
- internship agreement;
- internship conditions;
- internship assessment; and
- prohibited cases.
Unlike the 2016 Internship Regulations, which categorised vocational school internships into “work experience”, “assisting internships” and “on-the-job internships”, the 2021 Internship Regulations sets out two categories: “work experience” and “job-related internships”.
“Work experience” is an activity organised by vocational schools in which students visit, observe and gain experience in the workplaces of internship employers in order to develop a preliminary understanding of a business and related professions.
“Job-related internships” give students who have demonstrated the ability to work independently the opportunity to engage in the practical work that is carried out by a business, either assisting or working independently. This category, therefore, is more hands-on than work experience.
The 2021 Internship Regulations retains elements of the 2016 Internship Regulations, which provided that internships must align with professional training objectives and be relevant to the content of the student’s primary academic studies (ie, their major). However, the 2021 Internship Regulations now specifically forbid students from internships that do not correspond to their major.
The 2021 Internship Regulations provide that when a vocational school arranges a job-related internship, the interning student and their parents or guardians must sign an informed consent form. If a student or their parents or guardians refuse the internship that has been arranged by the vocational school, the student is entitled to choose another job-related internship from an internship employer which meets relevant requirements.
According to the 2021 Internship Regulations, where there is an internship, the vocational school, the internship employer and the student shall sign an internship agreement based on the template of internship agreement issued by relevant authority and shall strictly perform the executed internship agreement. It is forbidden for the vocational schools to arrange for students to conduct an internship without entering into such an agreement.
According to the 2021 Internship Regulations, a job-related internship typically lasts six months and involves tasks that are relevant to the interning student’s major. Interning students cannot be asked to engage in simple repetitive work. In terms of remuneration, internship employers should refer to the remuneration standards for employees who engage in the same activities as the interning students, considering the following factors:
- work intensity; and
- work time.
Remuneration for interning students who can work independently, to a relative extent, should not be lower than 80% of the salary of the employees who work in the same position or the lowest salary that the internship employer offers.
Further, the 2021 Internship Regulations also prohibit interning students from:
- engaging in high-risk activities;
- performing duties during weekends and statutory public holidays; and
- carrying out overtime work and night work.
The 2021 Internship Regulations provides that vocational schools and internship employers must jointly formulate and implement specific assessment methods and standards according to the internship objectives and the duties and responsibilities of each interning student. It is forbidden to apply the internship employers’ attendance systems or employee standards to interning student assessments.
The 2021 Internship Regulations strictly prohibit vocational schools from organising internships for profit. They also restate the provision in the 2016 Internship Regulations that vocational schools and internship employers must protect the basic rights of interning students according to the law and they reinforce another provision by explicitly forbidding internships that involve strenuous physical labour and any other activity that could be harmful to the student’s physical or mental health.
More specifically, vocational schools and internship employers are prohibited from:
- arranging for, or accepting, a first-year student to take part in a job-related internship;
- arranging for, or accepting, a student under the age of 16 to take part in a job-related internship;
- arranging for an underage student to engage in work prohibited under the Provisions on the Special Protection of Juvenile Workers;
- arranging for a female student to engage in work prohibited under the Special Provisions on the Labour Protection of Female Employees;
- arranging for a student to intern in commercial entertainment establishments such as bars, night clubs, karaoke bars, public baths, video game halls or internet cafes;
- organising, arranging, or managing internships through intermediaries or paid agents;
- arranging for interning students to engage in physical labour that is considered “level three intensity and above”; and
- arranging for interning students to engage in other activities that could be harmful to the student’s physical or mental health.