Mundo do trabalho

The rise of the precariat and the loss of collective sensibility
April 7, 2013 8:02 pm – By Tristram Hunt
There is no sense of mission to this modern middle class, writes Tristram Hunt
In his 1577 Description of England the writer William Harrison distinguished “four degrees of people”. The first degree consisted of gentlemen, defined as “those whome their race or blood or at least their virtues doo make noble and knowne”. Second, came the citizens of England’s cities; then the yeomen of the countryside; and finally a category embracing day labourers, poor husbandmen and servants, people who had “neither voice nor authoritie in the common wealthe, but are to be ruled and not to rule other”.
Last week, the Great British Class Survey updated this final grouping as the “precariat” – whose members earn just £8,000 after tax and are unlikely to go on to higher education. The new classification was part of a mass study into social class, co-ordinated by the BBC and six universities, which aimed to dismantle our traditional tripartite division of working, middle and upper class. Instead, the academics have now decided on seven classes, encompassing such bands as “emergent service workers”.
Since then, the British chattering classes have been dissecting the state of British social identity and indulging our national pastime of obsessing over hierarchy, etiquette and class. But it has done so against the disturbing backdrop of the Mick Philpott arson case and a much cruder debate about whether the welfare state has turned the traditional working class into an immoral underclass. Rather than questioning the prevalence of such poverty and social breakdown, we have opted instead for another exercise in middle-class self regard.
What a contrast to 1963. This survey has arrived bang on the 50th anniversary of one of the defining texts of English social class. “I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the ‘obsolete’ hand-loom weaver, the ‘utopian’ artisan … from the enormous condescension of posterity,” wrote EP Thompson in his preface to The Making of the English Working Class.
What that brilliant history did was chart the development of a working-class identity out of the trauma of the Industrial Revolution, telling the story in terms of human relationships. And he was right to focus on the late 1700s as the defining epoch. That was the moment when William Harrison’s finely tuned degrees gave way to the language of “sorts” and even “classes”. In the social aftermath of urbanisation and industrialisation, there was talk of collective social groups such as “the poorer classes” or “the middling classes”.
Middle-class identity was being forged just as actively as working-class. “In it are the heads that invent, and the hands that execute … the men in fact who think for the rest of the world, and who really do the business of the world,” as James Mill described them.
To Marx and Engels, these were the bourgeoisie. Their achievements were remarkable, but they were also destined for the grave of history being dug by the working class. There was nothing precarious about Karl Marx’s proletariat, whose purpose was to end all class division with an end-of-days revolution.
In the short term, what Marxism got so spectacularly wrong was the idea of ever-accelerating extremes between top and bottom. Instead, the 20th century was marked by the remarkable enlargement of the middle class. As John (now Lord) Prescott, former Labour party deputy prime minister once put it: “We’re all middle class now.”
This explains the level of detail the latest survey lavishes on the intimacies of the middle class – with their social capital, savings rates, and occupation all under the microscope. But there is no sense of mission to this modern middle class; none of that energy which used to surround the enlightening, civilising, faith-driven function of the British bourgeoisie. This is about Ikea and Facebook, not the anti-Corn Law League or battle for female suffrage.
What the Great British Class Survey confirms is a loss of collective sensibility. For better or worse, social class as it has been known for 200 years is headed towards Marxism’s grave. We are back to the world of Harrison, with its minutely gradated chain of being. And the sense of agency and purpose which Thompson once heralded is now overshadowed by a precariat with “neither voice nor authoritie in the common wealthe”.
The writer is a historian and Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent
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El timo laboral de despedir en agosto y contratar en septiembre
Los expertos recuerdan que las empresas que dan de baja a sus trabajadores en vacaciones para ahorrarse su sueldo pueden ser multadas con 6.200 euros por empleado. No hay datos oficiales de cuántas personas se ven afectadas por esta práctica ilegal.
EFE Madrid 03/08/2013 12:39 Actualizado: 03/08/2013 13:31
Algunas empresas despiden a sus empleados durante las vacaciones de agosto, ahorran ese mes de salario, que es sufragado por las prestaciones por desempleo, y vuelven a contratarles en septiembre, una práctica que es ilegal según recuerda un informe del despacho de abogados Jausas.
Jausas explica que los servicios de inspección de la Seguridad Social persiguen estas prácticas desde su regulación en el plan de acción de 2006 por lo que las empresas que las realizan, debido en su mayoría al desconocimiento de la legislación vigente, deben evitarlo a fin de no sufrir las consecuencias negativas que acarrean.
En el informe Las vacaciones de los trabajadores: respuestas a las cuestiones más frecuentes se explican algunas de las irregularidades que cometen las empresas y que según el despacho de abogados, son “casi un problema sociocultural” en España, pues muchas empresas no ven que estén haciendo algo ilegal. Además de las sanciones, que van desde los 6.251 euros por trabajador, la empresa se arriesga a que, si el trabajador reclama, “los tribunales reconozcan que no ha habido voluntad de finiquitar el contrato y que la antigüedad del trabajador se mantenga”, advierten.
Por su parte, CCOO y UGT afirman que no tienen datos al respecto ni conocen casos de trabajadores que los hayan denunciado. Asimismo la patronal CEOE reconoce que las mencionadas prácticas son ilegales, pero afirma no tener cifras sobre empresas que incurren en ellas. El dato concreto de las empresas sancionadas por estos motivos tampoco se puede conocer por el Ministerio de Empleo, que explica que estos casos se incluyen en las estadísticas de infracciones laborales, que no diferencia este tipo específico de falta.
Bajas médicas en vacaciones
En cuanto a los trabajadores que sí disfrutan de sus vacaciones, según el informe los cambios introducidos por la reforma laboral de 2012 sobre las bajas médicas que acontezcan durante el periodo de asueto ha suscitado grandes dudas entre los empleados. Jausas señala al respecto que la nueva redacción del artículo 38 del Estatuto de los Trabajadores establece que se aplazará el disfrute de las vacaciones pendientes cuando se inicie una baja médica o por maternidad y que se retomarán en el momento en que el trabajador esté en activo, antes de que transcurran 18 meses.
El único caso en que esto no será así se dará cuando el trabajador se encuentre de vacaciones fuera del territorio nacional, debido a que es obligatorio que la baja médica sea certificada por “un facultativo nacional o por aquellos centros o entidades autorizadas como mutuas de accidentes de trabajo”.
Estagiário morre após trabalhar 72 horas seguidas na Inglaterra
Redação Web | 18h37 | 20.08.2013
Moritz tinha apenas 21 anos e era natural da Alemanha
O estudante Moritz Erhardt fazia intercâmbio na Universidade de Michigan e atuava como estagiário no Bank of America, em Londres e morreu após trabalhar por 72 horas praticamente sem descanso.
Segundo o jornal The Independent, o jovem sofreu um ataque epiléptico e caiu no banheiro do alojamento em que morava, em Betnal Green, leste de Londres.
Moritz tinha apenas 21 anos e era natural da Alemanha e em apenas uma semana terminaria o estágio.
America’s Jobless Generation
Jeff Madrick – September 3, 2013, 2:35 p.m.
In his speech commemorating the Martin Luther King March on Washington last week, President Obama got it partly right. It’s not only about civil rights. It’s also, crucially, about jobs. Of the marchers back in 1963, Obama said, “They were there seeking jobs as well as justice—not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity. For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?”
The need for gainful work is desperately important now, with overall unemployment, even after recent improvements, still stubbornly high, and blacks, as has long been the case, around twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. Indeed, Obama’s speech heralded the arrival of a bleak Labor Day, at a time when so many young Americans cannot find work.
But then Obama got it wrong. “The twin forces of technology and global competition,” he said, “have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.” This is the centrist economist in Obama talking, who buys into current economic orthodoxy: technological advances in many industries, so the explanation goes, have in many cases replaced a human labor force with an automated one; and thanks to global markets, what human labor is needed is moving to countries where wages are low.
What about government policy? Many aspects of our current employment crisis have less to do with technology or globalization than with the administration’s failure to adopt policies to strengthen the labor force, and more precisely, those parts of the labor force that are most crucial to the nation’s long-term social and economic health.
Consider the bleak prospects of young people entering the workforce today: the portion of people aged twenty to twenty-four who have jobs has fallen from 72.2 percent in 2000 to just 61.5 percent. Meanwhile, if we adjust for inflation, the median earnings of men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four working full-time has fallen by nearly 30 percent since 1973. For women, the median has fallen by 17 percent. As Andy Sum, an economist at Northeastern University who has studied youth unemployment for many years, has shown, if you are out of work or underemployed during those initial years of adulthood, chances are far higher you will be unemployed, poor, or dependent on welfare later on.
The summer work situation for teens is even worse. Sum and his Northeastern colleagues figure that in 1999, 52.6 percent of American teens between age sixteen and nineteen had summer work. Today, only 32.3 percent do. And these numbers are worse for young blacks and Latinos. In 1999, about 33 percent of black teens had summer jobs; now 19 percent do—a reduction by almost half. But the decline is true for all groups: 39 percent of white teens worked this summer—a sharp decrease from the 1999 figure of 63.3 percent.
You may think that teen employment, which has been largely neglected by the media, is not a critical issue. Some may imagine suburban kids who have part-time jobs to supplement their spending money on cars and clothes. But the reality is that, in poorer families, teens often provide crucial household income; many others are trying to pay their way through school. The lower a family’s income, in fact, the less likely a teen from that family will be able to find a summer job. And the extent of teenage job experience plays an important part in determining future job prospects.
You can also talk about education all you want: those most likely to be out of work, the argument goes, are those who have failed to go to, or didn’t finish, college. But the proportion of young people with college degrees, or even advanced degrees, who are employed is also down considerably from a decade ago. I emphasize the plight of the young because, if we abandon them, they will abandon us. Cynicism and apathy take root early in life. The future prospects of an entire generation will be significantly diminished as a result of early unemployment, and many will lose faith in government entirely.
In fact, it is not technology and China that are the main causes of joblessness among the rising generation. First, by a long shot, ours is a nation that refuses to take the economic measures necessary to get itself to anything resembling full employment. The sequestration—Obama’s own proposal—is reducing government spending just at the moment when it might help the economy finally reach the conditions for lasting job growth. Instead, we have a situation in which older, more qualified adults are taking scarce jobs from young adults, young adults from teens, the college-educated from those with only a high school degree.
The government has many tools at its disposal to address the problem. First, more government spending would create government jobs, many of which are being cut. But it would also generate more GDP than the dollars spent. Numerous empirical studies show that a dollar of stimulus creates well more than a dollar of income nationwide, especially when the economy is weak—the so-called Keynesian multiplier. That income would increase consumer spending, encouraging businesses to invest more in the economy, thereby creating more jobs.
Second, more direct public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and other civic projects will also create new job opportunities.
Third, a more flexible set of trade rules and a movement towards reduced trade deficits and surpluses would make American manufacturers more competitive with their foreign counterparts, and thus better able to support the American workforce. At present, World Trade Organization rules are too strict and should allow more room for targeted investments at home and better protection of infant or threatened industries.
Fourth, the implementation of laws that enable labor to organize would protect against unnecessary export of jobs that can be done competitively in the United States. And, finally, the nation needs to raise the minimum wage substantially to help improve wages of those—often young people—who do find entry-level work.
While some mainstream economists support fiscal stimulus, many rail against an increase in the minimum wage. Their main argument assumes that wages have been set in a fair market undistorted by corporate power or other market imperfections. But much empirical work suggests higher minimum wages would help, not hurt, employment levels, by creating demand for products absent in the economy. As for teens, a far higher proportion worked in the past when the minimum wage was higher, adjusted for inflation. Indeed, the minimum wage in 1963, when Martin Luther King led his historic march, would be $9.40 an hour in today’s dollars, and the unemployment rate in 1963 was under 6 percent. The federal minimum wage is today is $7.25 and the unemployment rate is 7.4 percent.
In his own March on Washington speech, Obama was more rhetorical than incisive, and added little to what we already knew. He did not provide a blueprint for how we can create a more equal society in which economic opportunity is shared by all groups and ages. Who can deny that, as Obama suggested, we must keep fighting this battle? But as a summer in which few found jobs comes to its end, the president should tell us precisely what the battle entails. Perhaps the fast-food workers’ strikes, which spread to nearly sixty US cities the day after Obama’s speech, will be the new front lines.

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