Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The dignity of work

There is dignity in work. Even the most menial job can give a sense of identity. Work gives that transient but satisfying moment of delight that can only come with a regular wage payment. A working household is an independent one, where the workless one is marginalised and economically irrelevant.

The number of households in the UK without a working adult has been trending upwards for decades. Since 1996, it has doubled. Certainly, there have been years when the number ticked downwards, but the trend has never been reversed.

So why have so many households effectively exited from the labour market? Certainly, the benefit system does nothing to encourage work. Family breakdown, and the marginalisation of men in family life has also played its part. No doubt, laziness has a role.

Nevertheless, a number cannot reflect the sense of humiliation that comes with being without work. It cannot capture that appalling sense of being left behind, as the rest of the working world busies itself with a sense of purpose.


droog said...

"The number of households in the UK without a working adult has been trending upwards for decades."

Sorry, I can't accept your interpretation of the figures.

The number of workless households was 20.9% of all households in the UK in 1996. This year workless households account for 18.8% of households. Noticeably, this percentage difference has been mostly by gains in working households (i.e. where all adults work).

It would be Glorious® if the real numbers were going down as well, leading to more drastic percentage changes. But if the percentage is going down one can't fail to notice where the population as a whole is trending. It's getting better, albeit slowly.

A bigger concern for me is that the percentage dipped to 17.3% in 2006, held thereabouts for three years and then shot up over the 18% mark in 2009. Obviously we're in difficult times which have set the trend back. By the way, working households peaked at 56.2 then.

I believe all major parties will pursue different means of reducing the number of workless household. I imagine both can be effective in reducing the figure whether they support varying degrees of welfare. I believe this because ultimately what mostly defines these households is how the economy is doing. Number goes down during booms, goes up during busts. Since all parties have respectively enjoyed and suffered booms and busts, both parties can fix this problem if they get their economies right.

So, let's see what austerity can do for us next year, given how this year basically has been written off.

Source (.xls file)

Anonymous said...

This is fairly put. I am unemployed and can speak without reference to statsitics or imagination. The feeling of not being right or competitive enough to be included in the vital, relevant, active portion of society is intensely depressing. I am aware of a large protion of society that is not needed or for whom replacements have been found. Millions have been let into the country to increase the population and competitive pool of workers. The effect of this on the unemployed particulary from the working class has been profound. These people are not politically represented or well connected or even attractive, in the simple everyday sense, to the media or decision making class. Of courses no one has a right to anything. No one asked me to be born and have needs. Successful purposeful activity is the product of hard work. The big enemy for want of a better word is embitterment. A whiff of this and you're finished because you have to present yourself as experiencing a temporary blip in your glorious career when really you are desparate and depressed and angry and humiliated. Here's an anecdote and you can draw whatever significance you want to. Two days ago I started a short temporary contract through and agency with JCB the equipment manufacturer. The first day was fine. I'd already worked there temporarily for 9 months earlier this year. I arrived at 7.30 am yesterday for day 2 but at 9 am I was told to leave immeditely and not given an explanation. I was escorted off site. No explanation. So I was left to think that there was some sort of black mark agianst my name which I didn't know about which meant I had to be marched off like a criminal. The feedback from the agency was pure bullshit about not quite having the right skills. These people had not the humanity to explain to me that a mistake had been made and they had changed their mind about needing me. I was treated like a low life but I had been invited to comde and work in good faith. My record there was clean. What did I say about embitterment? (Was that reasonable enough?)

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. In your absence, Index linked National Savings Certificates were reintroduced and today have been withdrawn again. Government claims to be eager for us to save but not keen that we retain the value of money saved.

A David

Michael Fowke said...

There's no dignity in menial work. That's just a myth fascists have been peddling for thousands of years.

craigs clock said...

There is dignity in menial work,if menial work is what you like. Some people live for other things than climbing corporate ladders. I have a friend for example who works on a supermarket checkout all day every day. This allows him spare mental faculty to compose the music he does. It takes all types to make a world.

Anonymous said...

I like doing any kind of work, menial or otherwise, but I find at this moment in time there is no dignity at work, not because of the actual work, but because the workplace has become a very hostile place. For this reason, I believe many native people CHOOSE not to work and immigrants are then required to do those undignified menial tasks.