Friday, 8 February 2019

Precariat readings for the career practitioner

BBC, The Great British Class Survey (2019)
Guy Standing has been the originator, a strong writer and an excellent advocate for a societal group known as the 'precariat'; a portmanteau construction of 'proletariat' and 'precarious'. This term refers to those working class people who once formed the proletariat but whose employment and social position has been increasingly eroded over the past fifty years due to factors outside their control. Those factors include globalisation, competition, free trade, user-pays, taxation, education, neo-liberalism, citizenship erosion and social welfare policy.

Standing defines the precariat as "an emerging class characterized by chronic insecurity, detached from old norms of labour and the working class" (2014, p. 1), where many of the expected rights of citizens have been whittled away by successive governments, international agreements and big business. Members this this group "have minimal trust relationships with capital or the state", having "truncated status" as citizens (Standing, 2015, p. 8).

These people are hidden. They are often exploited because their unclear status means they are unable report acts of marginalisation to government. They may be illegal climate refugees, sweatshop workers, sex workers, Uber drivers or have visa issues... termed 'over-stayers' in New Zealand.

For example, in "The Precariat: A new dangerous class" (2015), Standing tells the story of Prato, an Italian town, where 180,000 people were involved in the textile trade. in 1989, 38 Chinese workers arrived, and the industry began to change. More visitor-visa Chinese came, working illegally for Chinese-run firms in enclaves ruled by Chinese mafia, but linked to existing Italian firms, until by 2008 there were 45,000 Chinese workers in Prato. Existing local businesses had been unable to compete, and had closed, one by one. Then came the Global Financial Crisis, and Prato was bankrupted almost overnight. The Chinese workers were evicted, deported, demonised and used as a xenophobic election issue for politicians' profiles. The Chinese workers' had no voice, no rights and no recourse. They were members of the precariat.

Man is a switching predator: we will go where there is the easiest work for us, and will make sacrifices for our families. For example, there are a large number of Filipino parents working as domestic servants in Dubai: the grandparents raise the children while the parents work to earn the money to educate, feed and clothe them, while rarely seeing them. If women become pregnant in service, the children are illegal, and hidden (McQue, 2 January 2019).

The precariat is a worrying concept, and forms a growing sector of society. In Britain it has been estimated that the precariat numbers 15% of the population (Savage, 2015), also defining this group as "increasingly frustrated and angry, but also dangerous because they have no voice, and hence they are vulnerable to the siren calls of extreme political parties". 

I offer a reading list in the reference list below for career practitioners wanting to know more.


  • McQue, K. (2 January 2019). 'It's a very big torture': the children growing up in hiding in Dubai. Retrieved from
  • Savage, M. (2015). Social class in the 21st century. London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd. 
  • Savage, M., Devine, F., Cunningham, N., Taylor, M., Li. Y., Hjellbrekke, J., Le Roux, B., Friedman, S., & Miles, A. (2013). A new model of social class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey experiment. Sociology, 47(2), 219-250.
  • Standing, G. (2015). The Precariat: A new dangerous class. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
  • Standing, G. (2014). A precariat charter: From denizens to citizens. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Recommended additional readings:
NB: anyone wanting to know their social class on the new British scale can go to and take the test. This is where the image that accompanies this post comes from.

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