The Living Wage and the Precariat


The Living Wage and the Precariat

The Living Wage was launched on the 14th of February. I like to think of it as a Valentine’s Day present to everyone in low wage work. It’s clearly time to share the love a bit better than what we’ve been managing as a society.

The launch was attended by representatives from an assortment of community and faith groups, political parties (kia ora Labour/Greens/Mana), ethical employers, unions, academics and supporters.

It’s awesome to have such a range of people support the idea of workers being able to live with dignity in return for their work.

The launch was timed to coincide with the Precarious Work symposium at AUT. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow (not that any of it was boring, but my recounting it might be) of the two days but a personal highlight was the presentation by Guy Standing about the Precariat. It was one of those YES-that’s-the-thing-that-I’ve-been-thinking-about-but-was-unable-to-express-it-with-your-cleverness-and-eloquence moments. If you’ve got a spare $50, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of his book. He explained modern class systems in the most convincing way I’ve heard and was exceptionally clear and passionate. He talked of how we were the first generations to turn citizens into denizens by eroding social, political, civil, cultural and economic rights.

The most useful thing he talked about though were the measures by which we should judge all social policies. There are 3:

1- They must increase security for those who are least secure. They certainly shouldn’t ever decrease it.
2- They must not limit freedoms of of any one group of citizens more than others (take note Paula Bennett).
3- They must frame the conversation in terms of rights, not charity.

My favourite line though, said with beautiful British accent, was about how we must stop this ‘TWADDLE’ about preparing people for jobs, as that’s not what higher education is about. According to him, we need to be developing subversive liberal attitudes. Heck yeah.

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