Once upon a time, a job was a sign of status – that you weren’t socially or mentally inept, and that you have at least a little conviction. It meant that you didn’t live in Mum’s basement and you didn’t leech off welfare.
The reality nowadays is quite different. A job no longer holds prestige – in fact, many jobs in the United Kingdom are looked down on, and a growing number of them are part-time as seen in recent records (The Guardian, 2010), and people have their career prospects lowered by simply taking one to pay the bills now, hurting their long-term ambitions (Guy Standing (2011, pp.74) noted this in his book ‘The Precariat’). Furthermore, many people in standard full-time jobs have been affected by recent changes in attitude toward labour market flexibility – which translates to lower job security for me and you – so that even if you have been working in the same place for ages in a 9 to 5, you can still never rest easily because perhaps next week you’ll be out of a job and unable to pay rent because you were “inconvenient”. And while these jobs are a necessity (someone has to fry those chips), they are also the reason why a lot of people have no real security. Jones (2011, pp.149) found that even in call centers, temps get less money and perks for doing the same job.
Your average Joe does not take a precarious job for fun – he takes it because otherwise, he’d have nothing. He doesn’t feel secure, but willingly walks into a situation where he is exploited simply to survive.
So who do we blame for this state of affairs? Governments? Business owners? Chinese sweatshop workers? Well, really, all of the above. If it wasn’t for the foreign workers (legal and otherwise) undercutting natives, perhaps business owners wouldn’t have needed to change policies and attitudes so much to stay afloat. And on the same note, why have the governments done nothing to protect normal people from such an unstable (and potentially costly, as the Department for Communities and Local Government noted in 2012) existence? The reason why many of this class do not vote is because they are simply not understood by the mainstream government (Standing, 2014).
If this is such a prevalent and serious issue, then the ultimate question we should ask then is ‘How can we change it?’ Good question – is it even possible? With the amount of people in this position growing exponentially, maybe it’s not so simple. It’s unfortunately become the norm, and let’s face it: why would a company presumably focused on making money give a second thought to the financial and social status of their employees? The consensus says that the fewer benefits you give to employees and the less job security they have, the more big-wigs gain.
More power to the bosses means fewer opportunities for pesky unions to spring up, and less reason to pay people more based on experience. No reason to give someone severance pay. No reason to continue to hire someone who simply disagrees with you, or when someone else will do it for half the wage.
This seems to be a by-product of globalisation and the necessary changes that were made to accommodate it. With a huge driving force, the only real way to combat it is to convince employers and corporations to change their attitudes (yeah right) or bring in laws which guarantee at least the smallest of securities for any employee, so that even part-timers don’t have to worry about suddenly living on the streets. Living life on the edge isn’t always fun.
By: Maria Homolova
Allen, K., 2010. Unemployment falls but part-time working hits record high. The Guardian, [online] 14 July. Available at: <http://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/jul/14/unemployment-part-time-working-record-high> [Accessed 24 October 2014].
Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012. Evidence review of the costs of homelessness. [pdf] London: Department for Communities and Local Government. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7596/2200485.pdf> [Accessed 24 October 2014].
Jones, O., 2011. Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. London: Verso.
Standing, G., 2011. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Standing, G., 2014. A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens. [pdf] Available at: http://ctx.sagepub.com/content/13/4/10.full.pdf+html [Accessed 24 October 2014].