In a shrinking world of work, it’s time to stop the violence against the poor

14_august_2015A letter a day to number 10. No 1,178

Friday 14 August 2015.

Dear Mr Cameron,

One of the greatest technological advances of all time is without doubt the washing machine, releasing people, mostly women, from hours of hard toil, along with the vacuum cleaner and many other labour saving devices the home has become a lot less drudgery and a lot more leisure time.

Of course, as we know, what followed was that increasingly more women could enter into paid work, indeed I well remember the post war years of liberation from the home, which was how it was seen and experienced. Of course there were still plenty of battles to be fought, like equal pay, maternity leave and the glass ceiling but there was a new optimism. Would that it could have lasted.

Technology has transformed our world and today more and more is produced by fewer and fewer people but instead of increasing wealth generally, we are seeing ever greater wealth inequality and for poorer people, a drive to the bottom. With one in five people living below the poverty line and Britain having the most unequal wages in Europe clearly work is not paying if we take that to mean ‘for workers’. A joint report from Deloitte, the Big Four accountancy firm, and the University of Oxford predicts that 10 million jobs could be taken over by computers and robots over the next 20 years and those most affected will be people who earn less than £30,000 a year, unskilled labour being the hardest hit producing an ‘under-class of low-skilled people whose jobs have been automated’.

Progressive governments would be looking at the changing world of work and planning strategies for wealth sharing that no longer includes work as the central aspect of people lives. Is this happening? Nope. Instead we have a government that demands full employment in an ever more insecure labour market offering bullshit jobs (as David Graeber calls them) for bullshit pay. And how does your government encourage people into work? By removing the social safety net and starving people either into work or an early grave. It is estimated that schools are now providing £43.5m of unfunded support for unemployed or low-income families, from food to ‘underwear, laundry and washing facilities, equipment, school trips, bus passes, haircuts, head-lice treatments, even birthday cards for children who otherwise would not receive them’.

Iain Duncan Smith is imposing hundreds of thousands of bullshit sanctions to drive people into bullshit jobs for bullshit pay in a world which simply does not need our labour. You know, everyone to the right of Mother Theresa is screaming blue murder that Jeremy Corbyn is leading us into the dark ages of Labour past, a Labour that gave us the Welfare state, the NHS and much else besides. They really need to think about what the alternative is doing to us.

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