A job that provides rising living standards is a thing of the past.
Now the route to wealth is through property and pensions.
Sat 27 Oct 2018 17.00 BST
It is often said that people are defined by their work. Whether the job is in mining, teaching or engineering, it provides an income, status, friends and a sense of community.
Yet for a long time now work has become secondary to being a savvy consumer, a homeowner (or, better still, a multiple homeowner) and a pension saver.
It’s not a trend the Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party recognises. But it’s a sad fact that a job is no longer the primary route to a better life, unless promotions – which often only add to the stress and long hours that employers already demand – are part of the plan.
If workers have any spare time, it doesn’t go into campaigning in their workplace for better terms and conditions. It is spent in the long queue at Aldi and Lidl for cheaper food. It is spent scouring the newspaper best-buy tables for a cheaper mortgage deal, a lower energy tariff or discounted car insurance.
And if there is a hint of a cut to a worker’s pension, they will leap up and vote for the party that promises to protect their entitlements, and even consider industrial action.
In part, this change reflects a rolling back of labour laws and with them the sense of solidarity among workers. It also follows the shift to an economic model that relies on workers to be more accommodating each year in their role as business and consumer service providers.
The irony is that when the consumer is made king, workers are forced to become even more flexible, providing services on a 24-hour cycle, usually to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.
Some politicians have sensed that the the tide is turning, and that workers have had enough of flat wage growth and employers that seek to improve profits almost exclusively at their expense.
It was clear once the promised bounceback from the financial crash failed to materialise that the trend for ever-worsening conditions and meagre pay needed to change.
George Osborne’s answer as chancellor was just to raise the minimum wage. Theresa May’s speech on taking office was to argue that workers should be more actively involved in the workplace.
She even pledged to give workers seats on boards, putting them at the heart of corporate decision-making.