Friday, October 16, 2015

The Precariat

In sociology and economics the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability  or security,  affecting material or psychological welfare...

If there was a drinking game where voters were required to down a shot for every time one of our political party leaders used the phrase "hard-working Canadians" during this election campaign we would have all staggered through these past few weeks and collapsed before reaching a polling station.

The leaders of the three major parties love to use it, and it seems to be code for the middle class, whatever that is. The focus appears to be on those who are employed and looking for benefits rather than those who are without work, or whose employment is precarious. A Globe and Mail article addresses this reality , although it may fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

The article uses the term "precariat," which may have been coined by Guy Standing, to describe those who live with constant economic uncertainty. Some are generationally poor, but others have grown up in middle class families and are spinning their tires when it comes to meaningful employment and financial security.

Christians are taxpayers and voters and often well ensconced in the middle class. It can be a challenge to remember that Jesus was a member of the precariat himself and whose audiences were often peasants and day-workers whose existence was precarious. It was the wealthy and secure who didn't like Jesus much. When he claimed that it would be easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get into heaven it was likely a humorous image which would tickle the fancy of his listeners.

I do hope that whatever party is elected will be more attentive to issues such as affordable housing and decent living wages, but I'm not holding my breath.

Do you know the term "precariat?"  Do you have family members struggling to get by, even though they are working?

1 comment:

Frank said...

I'm more familiar with the adjective precarious, which explains why one should begin eating meals with dessert first, or always voting ASAP in advance polls. Life in general can be precarious so in some circumstances we don't want to leave anything to chance.
Precariat sounds like an apt term for those of us face a precarious existence as a regular course of events. It also rings an echo of an earlier economic/political term "proletariat". Left unresolved we all know where that led.