On March 4, Australian National University (ANU) students will learn some hard truths about the evolving employment and financial landscape of the 21st Century. Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies at the University of London and author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, will be speaking about forces that have resulted in many people experiencing existence without predictability or security.
The evolution of a new social class
Modern business and communications methods have resulted in social and economic class structures becoming unhinged from global and even national identities. Hence, the evolution of the precariat; a class in the making, populated mostly by young, qualified and capable people whose work and identity exists outside mainstream political ideals.
Many students currently studying at university will soon become members of the precariat without even realising it. A precariat is often self employed, with much of the work performed or sold online utilising modern technology. Examples include web designers, start-ups, app developers, copywriters, entrepreneurs and many more. The precariat, as understood by Professor Standing, is a blended title derived from ‘precarious’ and ‘proletariat’. A successful proletariat could learn a craft or trade while growing through the ranks to become a master crafts-person. A precariat, on the other hand, often attains skills and qualifications that are well in excess of the level of the job he or she performs.
Am I a Precariat?
If you are engaged in an occupation that involves a life of unstable, intermittent work without long-term job security associated with traditional contracts you are possibly a member of this new social class. Other symptoms include unstable living arrangements and a possible loss of status due to an ever changing employment landscape. Precariat characteristics include:
- insecure labour
- flitting from one job to another (even within your own field)
- incomplete or vague employment contracts or expectations
- indirect employee/employer relationships
- employment at the mercy of brokers or agents
In other words, according to Professor Standing, “precariatisation is a loss of control over time and the development and use of one’s capabilities.”
Growthless jobs propping up the economy
The evolution of technology has resulted in tremendous opportunities for skills development and enterprising business growth. Unfortunately, the rapid growth and change in technological practice and systems development has also created a work environment that is fleeting, without consistency and easy to fall behind. Occupational identities in the new millennium can be quickly superseded and snatched away.
Without the economic, social and political rights expected of the average working class, the precariat is experiencing a huge loss of benefits. Governments in modern economies cite lower unemployment as proof of a healthy society, and some people believe this ‘jobless growth’ is a symptom of sound financial management. Professor Standing, on the other hand, believes the present circumstances are the result of the opposite: ‘growthless jobs’, with low wages, intermittent work and a lack of employee benefits propping up the economy. The global transformation of the open market economy has left workers in a weaker bargaining position.
Professor Guy Standing’s public lecture, The Precariat: Why it is today’s dangerous class.
Venue: Theatrette, Sir Roland Wilson Building (120), McCoy Circuit, ANU
Date: Wednesday, 4 March, 2015, 6pm to 9:15pm