I was brought up during the 1960s and 1970s; with all its other shortcomings, to me, it seemed like a golden age – a great time to grow up. Society seemed to be a lot fairer back then. People had secure, long-term employment; they were treated well by their employers, due in part to the collective bargaining rights afforded by the Trade Union movement.
I experienced some of it when I started work in 1977 but it didn’t last long. From June 1979, things seemed to go steadily down hill, everything changed, unemployment was growing, the Trade Unions came under attack; secure full-time employment was slowly and steadily becoming a thing of the past. Why?
It was all down to a group of economists in the 1970s who, with their ‘neo-liberal ideology’, caught the attention of politicians. The main tenet of their ‘neo-liberal’ model was that economic growth and development depended on having a competitive market; therefore, everything should be done to maximise competition and competitiveness, and to ensure that market principles seep through all aspects of life.
Because of this, we now have a new and emerging class of people – the Precariat – that is replacing the old working class and steadily seeping into the middle class. This emerging class of people is characterised by, precariousness of residency, of labour and work, and of social protection. The theme of this book is an analysis of ‘the precariat’, and explains what it is, how it has emerged, and what we can do about it to protect ourselves against it.
According to the author there are now essentially four social classes: there is the 1% who are ‘the super-rich élite’, a class which is totally detached from the rest of society; then there is the ‘salariat’, still hanging onto their ‘enterprise benefits’ in the form of pensions, paid holidays and the other perks associated with steady, traditional employment .
Existing with the salariat are the professional technicians, or what the author describes as, ‘proficians’, often working as highly-paid consultants and contractors, they are not part of the traditional 9 to 5 jobs-for-life model but move from job to job, company to company as and when required. They fit nicely into the government’s and the élite’s desire for a flexible labour force.
Below them is an ever decreasing number of manual workers in the older sense of the term; you might say, the former bastions of ‘old labour’ – workers who do not fit the flexible-labour-model so desired by modern businesses, and are slowly and steadily in decline. And then, right at the bottom, comes the ‘precariat’.
The book is well written, in an easy to follow style. I found it to be a fascinating analysis of an interesting subject, and, a good starting point for anyone who is interested in how, the way we live and work is changing; it makes a compelling case for the idea of a ‘universal basic income’.