According to official statistics, employment levels in the UK are at record highs. But this conceals the grim reality of working life in modern-day Tory Britain, with many of those classed as ‘working’ in fact just scraping by.
The Tories would have us believe that workers in Britain have never been in a better position than today. Unemployment is officially at its lowest level since 1974. Employment is at its highest level since records began (in 1971). And there are currently 1.6 people competing for each vacancy, the lowest number since 2001.
But in reality the position of UK workers could hardly be worse. Homelessness stalks the streets. Poverty levels are at 20%. Food bank usage is rising. Zero-hour contracts have become the new norm. And wages are still yet to recover to their 2007 level.
How can it be so difficult to get a decent job, and yet all the official figures seem so promising on paper?
Lies, damn lies, and statistics
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to be officially unemployed you must: be between 16 and 65; be actively searching for work; and currently have no job.
But what counts as a job? Anyone who has in the past week done one hour of paid work.
Are you 66 and searching for a job? You are not unemployed – you are retired!
Have you been looking for a job for months on end, but haven’t submitted an application in the past four weeks? You are not unemployed, you are discouraged!
Have you, for a bit of extra income, babysat a friend’s child for the length of a movie this week? You are not unemployed – you have a job!
With such strict standards, it is amazing that anyone manages to be officially unemployed at all.
Official unemployment data fails to reflect the large numbers of people who are only employed part-time and who want and need more work. On top of this, millions more have just disappeared from the jobs market. They exist and want proper work, but no longer officially count in the statistics.
The bosses have used this reserve workforce-without-work as a way to undermine workers’ rights and hold down pay. Two part-time workers cost the same as a full-time one, but have substantially fewer associated rights between them.
The percentage of part-time workers increased from 35% to 38% between 2007 and 2015, with those wanting more employment (but not getting it of course) rising from 10% to 18%.
We are told more jobs are available. However, these new jobs are not like the old. Conditions are Dickensian, often involving working ‘variable’ hours with unpaid overtime. Workers’ rights are being torn to shreds. Wages remain low, with the bosses using the threat of unemployment to attack pay and boost profits.
In the final analysis, wages can only rise if either: there is an increase in productivity; or, through class struggle, workers force the bosses to give up a bigger share of the pie.
But productivity is not increasing, as the capitalists are not investing. Why? Because markets are saturated and are not profitable. Instead, the bosses are attacking workers’ wages and conditions as much as they can to reduce costs and increase profits.
Nationalise the monopolies
Two things are needed to resolve this.
Firstly, we need militant, fighting unions that will organise workers – including those in precarious sectors – and struggle for decent jobs and pay.
The low levels of strike activity since 2011 are a scandal that must be rectified. The bosses will not raise pay and conditions through goodwill – they must be made to cough up. Only the power of the organised working class can do this.
Second, major investment in the economy is needed, in order to create meet the needs of society and create decent, stable jobs for all. But the capitalist class is incapable of doing this, as their only interest is making profit.
What is needed, therefore, is a socialist plan of production. This means taking over the banks and major monopolies, so that the working class can run industry, instead of industry running workers into the ground.
This is the way to defeat the exploitation that is endemic within capitalism, artfully hidden by rigged ONS official figures.