What is 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. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat. Unlike the proletariat class of industrial workers in the 20th century who lacked their own means of production and hence sold their labour to live, members of the precariat are only partially involved in labour and must undertake extensive “unremunerated activities that are essential if they are to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings”. Specifically, it is the condition of lack of job security, including intermittent employment or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence. The emergence of this class has been ascribed to the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism.

The analysis of the results of the Great British Class Survey of 2013, a collaboration between the BBC and researchers from several UK universities, contended there is a new model of class structure consisting of seven classes: a wealthy “elite”; a prosperous salaried “middle class” consisting of professionals and managers; a class of technical experts; a class of ‘new affluent’ workers, and at the lower levels of the class structure, in addition to an ageing traditional working class, a ‘precariat’ characterised by very low levels of capital and lasting precarious economic security, and a group of emergent service workers.


There is the first of a three-part series exploring the effects of global capitalism on modern workers by Guy Standing, author of The Precariat:

1. The first faction consists of those who have fallen from old working-class communities or families. They feel they do not have what their parents or peers had. They may be called atavists, since they look backwards, feeling deprived of a real or imagined past. Not having much education, they listen to populist sirens who play on their fears and blame “the other” – migrants, refugees, foreigners, or some other group easily demonized. The atavists supported Brexit and have flocked to the far right everywhere. They will continue to go that way until a new progressive politics reaches out to them.

2. The second group are nostalgics. These consist of migrants and beleaguered minorities, who feel deprived of a present time, a home, a belonging. Recognizing their supplicant status, mostly they keep their heads down politically. But occasionally the pressures become too great and they explode in days of rage. It would be churlish to blame them.

3. The third faction is what I call progressives, since they feel deprived of a lost future. It consists of people who go to college, promised by their parents, teachers and politicians that this will grant them a career. They soon realize they were sold a lottery ticket and come out without a future and with plenty of debt. This faction is dangerous in a more positive way. They are unlikely to support populists. But they also reject old conservative or social democratic political parties. Intuitively, they are looking for a new politics of paradise, which they do not see in the old political spectrum or in such bodies as trade unions.

This is an innegligible fact that university students are facing fierce competitions in a harsher social environment, although they have been told there will be a promising future waiting for them and also have seen how their parents got success in the same way. Does the promising future become a commercial element in a variety of forms in front of the students? Do parents make a great misunderstanding about the situation?

Does universities become a Precariat Production Line produce precariat, as the education was compared to a factory produce exactly the same human beings to the society?

Nowadays, college students are always complaining about employment pressure and stress of life such as housing pressure, about the gap between reality and ideal which actually was promised by their parents, teachers and politicians, but never talking about if it should be such a common reality.

It is also the fact that the average salary is increasing continuously, everything seems to be going well.

But it must be questioned: Is this situation common?

The Elephant Development event what is happening now shows serverl facts that Of a planned 979 private homes, only 33 will be social rent affordable to the majority of people who live in the neighbourhood. That’s a staggering 3.3% of the total homes Delancey wants to build; On the topic of the treatment of the numerous local traders at the Shopping Centre, there are still only poor intentions about making sure there are robust and genuine offers of relocation in the area. Delancey seeks to throw money at this problem by offering a pissy £250,000 ‘towards a relocation fund’ but it’s not clear how many of the 70 or so businesses there will get this help; So-called ‘regeneration’ based on property development might economically increase a bit of council tax into the Council coffers but socially they actually increase poverty, isolation, ill health, anxiety and so on.

I start to think if it should not only be the negative result of education economy itself, but also the social environment produced by government, even if it is a commonplace and I used to avoid talking about this. As in the 1970s, the Nixon administration got a bill pushing for UBI through congress twice before being blocked by the Senate. It certainly seems the case when looking at the data taken from societies which have adopted UBI in the past. In 1974, the Canadian town of Dauphin gave everyone a guaranteed basic income so nobody fell below the poverty line, for four years. The data wasn’t analysed fully until 2009, but the findings showed that child school performance increased, hospitalisation went down and domestic violence was much reduced. It’s also been found that countries which have the shortest working weeks have the highest social capital – people not only volunteer more, they take more time for going to the theatre, for instance.

This is an article written by Gmma Milne and posted on ogilvy.com, it is said that “The definition of work is something we haven’t quite formalised as a society – if it’s about doing something useful, then surely volunteering or caring for children and the elderly should count. In the context of mass automation, if robots are to take away our employment then are we to move towards a society where the focus is more on ‘valuable’ work, leaving us to lead better lives?”

So it seems the solution should be the UBI(Unconditional Basic Income) that the basic life of graduate students is under protection. But, in my mind, is it going to reduce the value of being educated?

There is description about it in the article Precarity Pilot: Making Space for Socially- and Politically-engaged Design Practice, and it also offers the solution through a series of practices of Precarity Pilot:

There seems to be an open assumption within design education that designers should engage with pressing social and environmental issues. What became clear was that although designers and design education do not openly speak about it, within the creative industries most people are exposed to exhausting precarious working and living conditions, such as bulimic work patterns, long hours, poor pay, anxiety, psychological and physical stress, and lack of social protection (c.f. Elzenbaumer & Giuliani, 2014; Lorey, 2006;)