What instantly concerns me while writing this post is that the MS Word application does not recognise the term ‘precariat’. This demonstrates a lack of acknowledgement given to this particular class of people. The term itself is not new nor is the situation of people who are classified by it. Yet, the issues that are raised by it are not given credibility, simply because of a lack of coherence in its voice. The common citizen will question at this point: “Who is the precariat?”
The precariat refers to the people of our society who have an insecure income with weak social security nets. Hence, the word emerges from precarious which literally means constantly changing. Like all other classes of the world structure, the precariat too are known by the kind of work they do and that decides their status in the society (Goldthorpe, 2010). That is, unstable and non-contractual employment that pays poorly and offers no career growth and is on the rise due to globalisation of labour and is more disadvantageous to women (Fudge and Owens, 2006). Simply speaking the precariat are the people that work zero contract hours, part time, on unpaid internships and many such others. Migrants too are a part of this camaraderie, so to speak.
Standing (2011), brings us to the heart of the matter. Calling them the dangerous class he rightly directs our attention to the fact that precarity is not just a passing phase. It is a phenomenon that has become all too permanent for our society. One has to wonder: why even bother with this supposedly new class? The Euro May Day is an example of why this class or rather its issues deserve more attention. The Euro May Day demands in a nutshell the removal of youth precarity and discrimination against migrants in Europe and beyond (EuroMayDay.org, 2013). Thousands of people have been taking the streets sine 2001 on the 1st of May every year. It is now characterised by strikes throughout public and private sectors and even disruptions in transport systems (BBC News, 2012).
The aforementioned protests are only one layer of the matter. As Standing (2011) concludes, if the precariat is not recognised and their issues not resolved, we risk an upheaval in the society. The precariat is therefore a group of us that needs particular attention. Even though it has not yet emerged as a class for itself, it has the potential of a thunderous wave. After all any group left to simmer in its frustrations can be dangerous.
By: Mariam Khawar
BBC News, (2012). Europe marches to mark May Day. [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17904349 [Accessed 17 Dec. 2014].
Euromayday.org, (2013). EuroMayDay. [Online] Available at: http://www.euromayday.org/about.php [Accessed 16 Dec. 2014].
Fudge, J. and Owens, R. (2006). Precarious work, women and the new economy. Oxford: Hart Publishing.
Goldthorpe, H (2010). “Analysing Social Inequality: A Critique of Two Recent Contributions from Economics and Epidemiology”, European Sociological Review, 26 (6), pp. 731-744.
Standing, G. (2011). The precariat. London: Bloomsbury Academic.