Welfare was meant to help the poor, not subsidise exploitative employers

Kenan Malik in The Guardian:

It will mean fewer jobs. That was the chorus from many on the right, from Tej Parikh of the Institute of Directors to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, in response to proposals from the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, to improve conditions for gig economy workers. Such workers, he insisted, should be given similar rights to those in permanent work, including eligibility for sick pay, maternity pay and similar benefits. He promised to ban zero-hours contracts and introduce a “real living wage” of £10 an hour.

So what does it mean for Parikh and Hammond to insist that if gig workers are given decent benefits, jobs will be lost? Unpacked, what that suggests is that employers are willing, or able, to provide jobs only if workers accept low pay and poor conditions.

Put like that, few people would accept the moral logic of the argument. But it is rarely put like that. We take for granted that businesses create jobs and so have the right to dictate on what conditions jobs are created.

This is one reason that we have come to accept, with little political debate or fury, the existence of the “working poor”. Almost 60% of the poor now live in households where at least one person has a job, a figure more than 20% higher than in 1995. Few are stereotypical gig economy workers such as Uber drivers or fruit pickers. They are cleaners and call centre workers, waiters and shelf stackers, childminders and rubbish collectors, workers whose labour is essential to society but whose pay and conditions push them to the margins.

Poverty is often seen as a problem of worklessness. Today, though, it is a problem of being in work.

More here.