Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low Wage Britain
The ‘post-work’ world has become a media talking point now that the jobs of affluent professionals are threatened with automation. Yet there are parts of Britain that have long inhabited something resembling a ‘post-work’ realm. Indeed, at times the Valleys look an awful lot like a precursor to an automated – and therefore jobless – future.
James Bloodworth is a journalist by profession, but decided to spend six months living and working among the lowest paid people in Britain. This saw him working as a Picker at an Amazon warehouse in Rugeley, a Care Worker in Blackpool, a Call Centre worker in Wales and an Uber driver in London.
Good on him, I say.
It’s a book that everyone should read. For this reason alone:
Most people living in poverty in Britain today are going out to work.
I know it’s hard to comprehend. I find it hard to understand and I’m one of those terrible single mothers who claim benefits, while doing two part-time jobs. Why should it be that I earn the minimum wage, despite having a university degree?
A 2015 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that more than half (58.8 per cent) of graduates were in jobs that did not require a degree
(All quotes are from Hired, by the way).
I’m not asking anyone to care. Just to be aware. The media loves to paint everyone on benefits as ‘scroungers’, but a large number of people claiming Tax Credits or Housing Benefit are actually in work.
A couple of hours ago I had one of my wisdom teeth extracted and it didn’t cost me a penny, so part of me really appreciates this country and its welfare system. But on the other hand, I feel quite despondent about the state of Britain. Working class people are no longer represented by any political party, the Labour Party sold out decades ago and the ‘Left’ has gone loopy over pointless identity politics. Meanwhile, workers rights and working conditions have been eroded and the employment market seems increasingly like Victorian England with its sweated labour and piece work.
I wanted to illustrate the contrast between the prosperity of ‘Middle England’ on the one hand and that dark, insecure world where low pay is synonymous with tyrannical landlords, bad bosses and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness on the other.
Bloodworth offers no solutions, but merely presents what he experienced, backed up by research and interviews with workers in similar positions. He isn’t an ideologue and it isn’t a rant of a book, nor does it hark back nostalgically to the time when Britain was the ‘workshop of the world’.
However, it does remind us that there was a time when a skilled worker could command a decent wage. There was a time when a working class person could have their dignity and take pride in their occupation. I remember this time. I’m from a family of mostly factory workers – one of my uncles was a tool maker, the other a welder. They earned a good living and their skills were in demand.
I can’t help but be heartbroken for the decline of Britain’s industry and the state of the country now. Those people a couple of rungs up the employment ladder should take note – soon computers and robots will be able to do your jobs faster and more efficiently. Already, hardly any of the shops I go into have shop assistants – it’s all ‘self-service checkouts’. Post-industrial Britain is bad enough, what is Post-work, fully automated Britain going to look like? I dread to think.