The reality of work

In an essential piece Jenni Russell explains the reality of 2009 working life for increasing numbers of working class and middle class people.

You really need to read the whole thing but these are her key points:

The welfare-to-work reforms are intended to discourage everyone but the very ill or disabled from leading a life on benefits. Fine, except for two problems. The first one we all know about: as last week’s figures made plain, the jobs aren’t there. The second problem is just as serious. Jobs aren’t what they were. The government and the welfare system tend to talk and act as if finding work is the end of the problem, and as if happy jobseekers will have nothing left to think about except the gold watch they’ll receive when they retire. But many jobs on offer, particularly those advertised in jobcentres, are precarious, temporary or part-time, or have uncertain hours. Leaving the security of benefits for jobs like these is like stepping out on to cracking ice. And our antiquated welfare system hasn’t worked out where the life rafts and lifebelts ought to be.

The government sticks to its mantra that work will always pay. It preaches the virtues of entering the workplace, in any form, on the assumption that low-paid jobs are just a starting point, and that people can work their way up. Its extra financial help to single mothers working under the New Deal runs out after a year, presumably because it thinks the mothers will be on higher pay by then. That’s unlikely. A Treasury analysis in 1999 warned that low-paid jobs were rarely a ladder to high-paid ones. The days of moving from being a teaboy to MD have long gone, partly because the teaboy will now work, often precariously, for a contract catering company, and the MD won’t ever know his name.

Work, in and of itself, is not always the solution. This has to be acknowledged at the highest level before we can even think about welfare reform.



One Response to “The reality of work”

  1. noisms Says:

    Yeah, because Jenni Russel knows so much about what it’s like to be poor and unemployed…

    Being employed, no matter how insecure it is, not matter how bad the pay is, and no matter how bad the hours are, is always better than being unemployed. Financially, psychologically and socially. It might not be “the solution” but it is infinitely more of a solution than sitting on the dole is.

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